SPECIAL | feature
Today, we make our own centennial memory by being here at this same place to enjoy the continuing growth and relevance of the Memory Room… — ELIZABETH E. GARRELS
Chapter NZ, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, hosted the Memory Room centennial celebration
Just five years earlier, campus visitor Mary Bliss had struggled to locate the place where P.E.O. had begun. There were no signs and passersby were unable to help. Mary Bliss took her concern to the Iowa P.E.O. convention in Fairfield, which accepted her idea of a tablet to be placed in the Old Main founding site. The leaders of Iowa Wesleyan generously agreed to set aside that former music classroom. In a ceremony on September 25, 1917, a bronze tablet commemorating the Founders and their sisterhood was installed on the classroom wall. Visitors today see that tablet as they enter the Memory Room. Florence McKibbin led the way in expanding the vision to encompass a historical museum room. She was supported in this venture by three living Founders. Alice Bird Babb essentially provided a name when she termed the Old Main classroom “so full of memories.” Collection and placement of furniture, artifacts and documents proceeded from 1917 until 1922. Florence McKibbin was assisted in this work by a strong committee and especially by May Brooks Snider, a past president of Iowa State Chapter and Iowa Wesleyan’s Dean of Women. Just as the 1922 picnic celebration of the Memory Room included a simple candle lighting tribute to the Founders, so did the 2022 celebration. Members of Chapter NZ, indeed, followed the 1922 script as they honored each of the Founders.
Afterward, Elizabeth Garrels closed the program with these words: “Today, we make our own centennial memory by being here at this same place to enjoy the continuing growth and relevance of the Memory Room… With the 1980 restoration of Old Main… the additional rooms of the west half of the second floor were also generously designated by Iowa Wesleyan for P.E.O. purposes… We are now pleased to show physical improvements, many conserved artifacts, expanded informational displays, new archival equipment and lighting and the updated kitchenette made possible from Sesquicentennial 150 Fund and Henry County preservation fund monies.” With that, and with a brief tribute to Carol Nemitz, chair of Chapter Original A’s Memory Room Committee for the past 30 years, all were invited to browse in the rooms and to sign the guest registry. Respect and festivity, both hallmarks of celebration, were evident throughout the evening of June 7, 2022, at the birthplace of P.E.O., signaling that the everlasting spirit of P.E.O. shines on. The Memory Room testifies to continuity with our past and growth into P.E.O.’s future. ––––– ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jean Thomson is Professor Emerita at Iowa Wesleyan University, where she taught English for 30 years. She served as president of Chapter NZ 2019-2021.
September–October 2022 | THE P.E.O. RECORD
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