About the Initiative

A century and a half ago, a small Lutheran college in the Midwestern plains demonstrated a progressive and instinctive sense of what society needed, and aggressively took steps to meet those needs. Carthage College’s early leaders understood that educating women was a critical part of that endeavor, so in 1870, Carthage became part of the first wave of institutions of higher learning to enroll women.

Carthage will celebrate 150 years of educating women with a full slate of exciting events starting in Fall 2019 and continuing through Fall 2020. In addition to special programming, we will seek ways to ensure a strong and bright future for Carthage women of tomorrow through a robust fundraising effort targeted at creating funds to support women through estate gifts, scholarships, and women’s athletics programs and places.

We encourage gifts of all sizes by women, for women, and in honor of women as we celebrate the past and look to new horizons of achievement. Please join us as we reach higher than we’ve ever reached before.

A History of Women at Carthage

Since it first accepted women nearly 150 years ago, Carthage has attracted women who saw college as a pathway toward careers and rewarding service to others, as well as a way to be liberated from boundaries rather than defined by them. These were women like Bernice “Bea” Hightower Ihlenfeld ’34, the first woman inducted into the Carthage Athletic Hall of Fame (league titlist in tennis), who rose from physical education teacher to assistant principal in the Fargo, North Dakota, school system.

They were women from families for whom college was out of reach, but who refused to compromise their dream of attending Carthage — people like Jewel Beres Marks ’46, who saved for her education on her own. She went on to teach school and help her husband, a Lutheran minister, build programs for their congregation. Naomi Roth Bryant ’42, daughter of a Lutheran minister, also contributes to the greater good as the creator of the Knit Wits, a volunteer group that has knitted hundreds of warm items for children in the Middle East, as well as in North Korea and Tanzania. Characteristically humble, she says, “Our days are filled with joy and service!”

Women have been integral to the College’s advancement on the faculty side as well. From our beginning, women faculty members were respected not only as inspiring, loyal and caring teachers; their influence extended well beyond the courses they taught. These faculty include early teacher of instrumental and vocal art Laura Manier, and Emily Cynthia Pennock, who taught Spanish and acted as the College librarian. Juanita Jones was considered a “stalwart” of the English Department, and Eudora Hanke, with her husband, organized one of the first traveling college a cappella choirs in the nation. Under her leadership, the Music Department “became a great source of strength and prestige” and a “bright light during the Depression,” as described in The Miracle of Carthage by former president Harold Lentz. In more recent years, Irene Kraemer, a beloved professor of French and dean of the former School of Professional Studies at Carthage, bestowed upon her students a love of learning and adventure, as she led frequent study trips abroad. They were among many women, writes Lentz, who “preserved the College during its most troublesome times and the Carthage of today has entered into their inheritance … Their spirit would live on in the institution they served with valor.”

Celebrating our Strong Alumnae

Today, our alumnae are succeeding in professions as diverse as business, law, education, health care, politics, and research. They are women like Cynthia Thomas Walker ’78, chief judge in the 50th District Court in Michigan, and social entrepreneurs like Vivian Onano ’14. A women’s and girls’ advocate and youth leader who was born and raised in rural Kenya, Ms. Onano is a multitasking mover-and-shaker as partnerships manager at SEED Project, global youth ambassador for Water Aid, and vice chair of Global Youth Empowerment Fund’s board of trustees.

They are also philanthropists of note whose generosity has moved Carthage forward. The College’s largest single gift — $15 million — was from a woman, 2017 Carthage Flame award recipient Jan Tarble — to fund a program to help students better prepare for their life’s work after college. And they are women like Jane L. (Slezak) Sturgeon ’74, who reaped benefits of a Carthage education while working at Abbott Laboratories and later when she elected to be at home while raising her four children. In that time, she volunteered for Carthage, taught environmental education programs to children, served as school board president, and was a member a nonprofit organization committed to the revitalization of downtown Libertyville, Illinois.

Carthage Microgravity Team Members Taylor Peterson and Celestine Ananda watch the low gravity beh...Carthage Microgravity Team Members Taylor Peterson and Celestine Ananda watch the low gravity behavior of propellant in the MPG experiment aboard the ZERO-G parabolic aircraft. November 2018.

Today’s Students: Driven, Accomplished

Today, women account for more than half — 55 percent — of the Carthage student body. These women include those who are the first in their families to attend college, who juggle courses with part-time jobs; they all are confident and self-driven women seeking the full spectrum of the college experience. 

Among those undergraduates making the most of Carthage is Celestine Ananda ’20, named a 2017 “Rookie of the Year” for making a mark her freshman year. A natural leader, she was named Wisconsin Student Ambassador to Citizens for Space Exploration last year and this year is a Rossing Physics Scholar. She is also a member of the Carthage CaNOP project that is attempting to design, build, and launch a CubeSat, a tiny satellite that could gather the same data as a LandSat satellite 7,000 times its size. For Celestine, and others like her, there are no limits.

For Chicago native Jasmine Ratcliff ’20, the Carthage experience has gotten off to a running start thanks to a superb theatre program. As a freshman, she was a member of the cast for the original production “A Seat at the Table,” which won national recognition: A Distinguished Production of a New Work at the Kennedy Center’s 2018 American College Theater Festival. Jasmine also won a regional certificate of merit for stage management for “Twin Set.” This fall, after a summer internship, the theatre performance major picks up where she left off, as stage manager for musical comedy “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”

Demonstrate Your Commitment 

Carthage College is fortunate to attract a diverse population of talented, self-driven women. But, if we are to sincerely celebrate this historic occasion, we must redouble our commitment to them. Please join us as we seek to improve the Carthage experience for its women students of tomorrow and for generations to come. This exciting year-long initiative enables us as a community to not only reflect on and celebrate our past, but to redefine what it means to be a woman at Carthage and build a better future.

From Fall 2019 through Fall 2020, a full slate of exciting activities will be held on and off campus for students, alumni, parents, friends, and community partners. Join us as we discover what it means to be a woman of Carthage — yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In addition to special programming, we will seek ways to ensure a strong and bright future for Carthage women of tomorrow through a robust fundraising effort targeted at creating funds to support women through estate gifts, scholarships, and women’s athletics programs and places. We encourage gifts of all sizes by women, for women, and in honor of women as we celebrate the past and look to new horizons of achievement.

Please join us as we reach higher than we’ve ever reached before.

Make your gift today
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