Messenger - Vol. 3, No. 1, Page 27
Fall 1993
Alumni Profile
Steadfast classmates share a century

     Keep in touch!" How many University of Delaware graduates utter that
phrase at Commencement, only to lose track of their friends as time goes
     Nine women from the Class of 1940 have kept their promise, meeting
every month since graduation. That's 53 years and more than 600 meetings,
and this College Club is still going strong.
     The "girls" of the College Club are Irene Morrison Anderson, Jean
Motherall Clem, Margaret Kelso Gray, Elinor Moyer Holland, Sylvia Phelps
Jones, Betty Hellen Pattison, Irene Alvarez Vandegrift, Mary G. White and
Rebecca Abel Willey. Most met as freshmen at the Women's College of the
University in September 1936, but Holland, Pattison and White have known
each other since grade school.
     Mostly commuters, the women bonded over brown-bag lunches in the noisy
basement of Science (now Robinson) Hall and shared out-of-class time in
Boletus, a temporary building used as daytime housing for commuters.
     Pioneers in their time, since not many Depression-era women went to
college, the members of the College Club worked hard to stay enrolled at
the University, doing marketing surveys, working in Kent Dining Hall and
assisting professors.
     "Sometimes," remembers Gray, "I wouldn't get finished until almost 9
o'clock at night." Nevertheless, the friends took the time to grow close.
Toward the end of their senior year, Holland suggested that they meet
regularly after graduation, a feasible suggestion since all lived in the
general area.
     The meetings took place at night, at first because it was an ideal
time for young, working women and, later, because the members could leave
their young children with their husbands. In the early days, recalls Clem,
their main activity was "darning our husbands' socks." (At one point, Jones
suggested that the best name for the group might be "The Stitch and Chatter
     As the members grew older, the meeting times grew earlier so members
could drive in daylight; and they eventually evolved into luncheon
     The club's recipes and topics of conversation may have changed since
1940, but the spirit of fellowship has not. Perhaps it's because of their
     The group has missed only a handful of meetings since their first
gathering, usually due to severe weather. Originally 12 in number, the club
has lost only three members: two to death, Mildred Bilderback Paterson and
Mary Armor, and one to a transfer out of the area, Louanna Jane Hanby. The
nine remaining still chat up a storm, pausing only briefly to sample the
refreshments provided by the hostess of the month. Topics shoot in all
directions at once, from local church events to a neighbor's operation to a
child's wedding. As one member pauses for breath, another chimes in and
keeps the table from falling silent. Every other sentence is punctuated by
gales of laughter. After 53 years, the College Club has not run out of
things to talk about.
      An unspoken group dynamic dictates that each woman contribute to
whatever conversation comes her way. A few of the members no longer hear as
well as they used to, and occasionally, a comment must be repeated, but
otherwise, the fun moves at a rapid-fire pace.
     All the club's members entered the workplace full time during World
War II, and, while most quit their jobs to have children, they also went
back to work once those children were grown. They have worked for such
diverse organizations as Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Head Start, the DuPont
Co., RCA Victor and Delaware Technical and Community College. For example,
Willey became the dean of Goldey Beacom College in Wilmington, Del., and
White was given the keys to Wilmington for her social work.
     In addition to their meetings, the members seek adventures. Clem,
Anderson, Holland, White and Pattison are currently enrolled in a "Stepping
Out Smartly" dance class. Holland recently vacationed in Bermuda. And 10
years ago, Willey became a first-time bride. As a wedding gift, the club
presented her with a commemorative chair, featuring a picture of Old
College on its back.
     For several members, the University of Delaware tradition has been
passed on to other generations. Holland's daughter teaches in the College
of Nursing. Through these contacts, the women see the changes at the
University and marvel at them. The size of the school particularly amazes
them. In 1940, 121 students received their diplomas; in 1994, more than
3,000 will graduate. "At our commencement, someone stood up and predicted
that one day thousands of graduates would be standing in our places,"
remembers Clem. "We didn't believe it."
     They also look back fondly on faculty members, including Anthony
Loudis and Dean of Home Economics Amy Rextrew.
     All nine women consider themselves fortunate to have stayed together
so long. Together, they have helped each other celebrate jobs, engagements,
weddings and births.
     They have also helped each other mourn the loss of parents, husbands
and friends.
     After more than half a century, the College Club is infinitely more
than a mere social gathering. "We're not just meeting," explains Pattison.
"We're sharing each other's lives."
                                        -Pam Miller, Delaware '94