Faculty Women's Club Celebrates 80 Years

Faculty Women's Club Celebrates 80 Years

By Alexis BlueUniversity Communications
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From left: Faculty Women's Club members Camille Yaden, Jane Lockwood and Cathy Barrett
From left: Faculty Women's Club members Camille Yaden, Jane Lockwood and Cathy Barrett
From left: Adrian Shelton, wife of UA President Robert N. Shelton, with Faculty Women's Club President Elaine Peters at the FWC fall reception. UA presidents' wives have belonged to the club since 1930.
From left: Adrian Shelton, wife of UA President Robert N. Shelton, with Faculty Women's Club President Elaine Peters at the FWC fall reception. UA presidents' wives have belonged to the club since 1930.

When Betty S. Hillman's husband got a job in optical sciences at the University of Arizona and they moved to Tucson in 1974, she didn't know a soul in the Old Pueblo. But that soon changed when she joined the Faculty Women's Club.

Established in 1930 by the wife of then-President Homer LeRoy Shantz as a social group for the wives of University faculty members, the FWC is preparing to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

Hillman joined the club years ago in search of fellow bridge players and made "instant friends" with many of the members. She continues to be active in the group today, although her husband has since retired.

"I went and I loved it, met lots of great people," said Hillman, who served as president of the club in 2007.

The face of the club has changed since its inception during a time when few women worked outside the home. Back then, the purpose of the FWC was to "bring the whole faculty family together mainly so women could have a social life," said club member Bonnie Frisch.

In the past, one of the club's primary programs was a baby-sitting exchange program for stay-at-home mothers in the club, a practice that has since been discontinued, Frisch said.

Today, the group extends beyond faculty wives. Working spouses of UA employees, both faculty and nonfaculty, as well as female UA employees themselves, are also represented in the club, which holds monthly luncheons and hosts guest speakers and several "interest groups," which allow members to participate in activities like hiking, quilting, gourmet dining, Spanish lessons, book discussions, bridge and more. 

For many members, the club has been a source of lasting friendships.  

"I've been here for 35 years and I'd never leave. I don't think you could belong to a better club," said Cathy Barrett, who is active in the club's quilting group, and whose husband, Harrison Barrett, is a Regents' Professor of optical sciences and radiology. "The greatest people in the whole wide world are right here."

Others credit the group with helping familiarize them with their surroundings when they were newcomers to the city.

"I got to know the area and the history and meet a lot of friends," said Arlene Reiber, who joined the club in 1978 and began exploring her new desert home with the help of the hiking group.

With its strong tie to the UA, the club also works to support academics at the University, awarding three scholarships each year to nontraditional full-time female students, such as single mothers struggling to pay for an education.

While the club continues to accept new people, the majority of members have been part of the group for years, and many of their husbands have since retired from the UA or passed away, putting the club at a crossroads of sorts, said Elaine Peters, FWC president.

At the club's annual fall coffee reception last week, Peters told members it is time to begin thinking about where the club is headed.

About 500 women receive the club's newsletter, The Grapevine, although not all are active in the club, said Camille Yaden, the FWC publicity chairwoman.

Yaden, who is among the club's youngest members, said she hopes to see the club continue and evolve with the changing times, saying she draws inspiration from the group's more experienced members and looks to them for advice on things like raising her children.

"I look to these older women as guides," said Yaden, who acts as director of the UA's Project NATIVE and is married to David Yaden, a professor in language, reading and culture.

"They're an amazing group of women. Most of the women who are here were in the shadows of their husband's careers." Although they were "trailing spouses," they still had a strong sense of their own identities, she said.

Membership in the club costs $18 a year and there are three levels of membership: a regular membership for women who work at the UA or are married to a UA employee, an associate membership for women who have no formal affiliation with the UA but were invited to participate in FWC activities by another cub member, and an honorary life membership offered to retired women faculty members, wives of retired or deceased UA employees or past FWC presidents who are no longer actively associated with the UA. (Dues are optional for life members.)

Events to celebrate the club's 80th anniversary are still in the planning stages and will be posted on the UA Master Calendar as they are finalized, Yaden said.

Those who would like more information on club events can contact Yaden at 471-6637 or camyaden@email.arizona.edu.

Those interested in joining the club can call Peters at 908-6352 or Mary Enemark, head of membership, at 323-2160.   

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