For over one hundred years, a group of women has spearheaded efforts to support Hillsdale College through scholarships and gifts for capital projects and other needs. They have done so quietly, diligently, and voluntarily, dedicated to providing the best to Hillsdale College students, faculty, and staff. These women, the Hillsdale College Women Commissioners, embody the pioneering spirit and bold initiative that have defined Hillsdale College since 1844.
Sixty women—forty Hillsdale residents and twenty out-of-town members—make up the Board of Women Commissioners. Their fund-raising ventures today benefit the entire college community, from their ongoing scholarship support to an endowed faculty chair in botany to specific projects. Just as that group of twenty-three women rose to the challenge to assist the needs of the College over one hundred years ago, so does today’s Board of Women Commissioners exhibit the same zeal for making Hillsdale College the finest college in the land.
In 1892, Hillsdale’s Board of Trustees unanimously called for the formation of a group of twenty-three women to raise a $25,000 endowment for the new position of Lady Principal, now known as the Dean of Women. The trustees gave the women the freedom to organize and go about their work in whatever manner they “deem expedient, and have the entire control of said work, reporting to the officers of the College at pleasure.”
The women set to work the following year. Initially, they focused on the needs of female students, faculty, and staff, voting to raise $50,000 for two chairs to be held by female professors in addition to the $25,000 needed for the lady principal. At their first meeting, the Commissioners made a recommendation to the Board of Trustees that two of their members become trustees on the all-male board. Their recommendation was accepted, and once again, Hillsdale continued its pioneering ways, becoming one of the first American colleges with female trustees.
In 1929, the women established the Hillsdale College Nursery School to serve as a laboratory for psychology, sociology, and home economics students. Housed in the basement of Mauck Hall, the nursery school program quickly became an integral part of Hillsdale’s curriculum. Although the Mauck location was intended to be temporary, the nursery school existed there until the Mary Proctor Randall Preschool was dedicated in 1967. The Commissioners contributed funds for the completion of the preschool and continue to maintain it through an endowed fund.
Two female residence halls on campus—Mauck Hall and Olds Residence—were built with money raised by the Women Commissioners. They also contributed $100,000 toward the building of Kendall Hall, one of the classroom buildings on the front of campus completed in 2005. Additionally, the Women Commissioners oversee twenty-one scholarships.