Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day: The First Women at Lewis


Editor's Note: In honor of International Women's Day, we bring you this story of our first women students at Lewis University. A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of the Lewis University Magazine. Do you have a campus memory to share? Email us at alumni@lewisu.edu and share your story.

After World War II, Lewis College of Science and Technology began to admit women as students and high school classes were discontinued. The college granted its first baccalaureate degrees in 1952.

Some of the earliest female attendees included Jane Stiker '56 (English), Arlene Olson, and Pat Klug. Living in the barracks still situated on campus from World War II during the 1950s, the women adhered to different rules than today’s generation of college students. Wearing dresses instead of pants to class was required, and a curfew on both weeknights and weekends was enforced.
Jane’s late husband, Jeff, served as a professor at Lewis for many years and the family even spent time raising two children in a home on campus. Jane, a long-time artist, has been woven into the Lewis fabric since her time as a student, serving as Dean of Women as well as providing paintings for the University. Jane was also on the cast of the very first play at Lewis, Stardust, in 1956.

“Lewis is home,” explains Jane. “The campus has always felt like home to me. I loved the teachers and the other students. We had a campus full of big brothers.”

As three of the 18 women on campus at the time, Jane, Pat and Arlene all found a comfort in having so many big brothers watching out for them on campus. Arlene fondly recalls cheering on the athletic teams as a cheerleader adorned in a heavy, red corduroy sweater – when she wasn’t attending class or working at her job on the switchboard, where she admits she accidentally disconnected then-President of the University, Admiral Herbert Grassie, many times. Arlene married standout athlete James Olson '56.

“Lewis was a family, and I hope that students will always see it that way,” says Arlene. “We all enjoyed our time here on campus. We still come back and attend events together. While I didn’t graduate, we all formed bonds and delight in getting together with our classmates from time to time.”

Pat also attended classes with Jane and Arlene. Pat met her future husband, Gerald Klug ’55, on the first day of school. She recalls how all the football players were outside the barracks to see who the girls on campus were. Gerald earned his degree in Business Administration. Her daughter, Kathleen Trojanowski ’89, also attended Lewis and graduated with a degree in Accounting.

“All of us ladies were friends,” adds Pat. “There were so few of us and no sororities. We all got to know each other really well and spent a lot of time together studying or attending events on campus.”

For more information on Jane, Pat, and Arlene and to submit your own memory, visit alumni.lewisu.edu/CampusMemories.