Tradition of service: Westminster Women's Board serving students for 95 years
July 11, 2006
Deseret Morning News
By Erin Stewart
Some students at Westminster College may be far from home, but they still have mothers watching after them. In fact, they have 85 self-proclaimed Westminster mothers and grandmothers baking them birthday cakes, planting flowers and raising money to keep them in school.
The Westminster Women's Board is still serving students at the Salt Lake private college after almost 100 years, making it one of the few surviving women's boards in the nation. And while its role has changed from that of mere hostesses, the board continues to follow its mission to help Westminster students.
"Our love of the school and the students has kept us going, absolutely," said Noreen Rouillard, 76, a board member since 1986 and a Westminster graduate. "Westminster played a part in my life ever since I moved to Salt Lake when I was a kid. "
Over the years, the group has evolved from its early years after starting in 1911. Initially, the group worked as hostesses in the women's dorms. In later years, the women worked on the campus planting flowers and mowing lawns.
The Women's Board even purchased Westminster's first computers.
"The women in charge of the house were actually there to see that the afternoon tea was served correctly, that the silver service was polished and there were fresh flowers in the building. We don't do that anymore," Rouillard said. "Now we're doing it in the fund-raising field and being on call for anything that the college president would like us to do."
That fund-raising focus has meant more than $600,000 in scholarships funneled through the Women's Board to Westminster students. About $100,000 came in just the past five years.
The group's most popular event - an annual Silver Tea - just celebrated its 90th anniversary and raised $10,000 for several women's scholarships. The amount is a hefty increase over the profit of the inaugural Silver Tea in 1916, which raised $32.50.
The traditional tea, complete with white gloves, hats and old-fashioned silverware, attracts about 200 community members each year.
"It would just be a crime if it wasn't kept going," Rouillard said.
For Rouillard, the mission of the board was never clearer than during this year's graduation of a female student who had received a Women's Board scholarship.
"She said if it hadn't been for the scholarships, she would never have been able to go to Westminster. It was making a changing difference in her whole life," Rouillard said. "When she came up on the stage to get her diploma, she looked over at me and mouthed the words, 'Thank you.' I was ready to cry."
Besides scholarships, the Women's Board still does some one-on-one service for the students, including baking and delivering birthday cakes for students who can't be home for their birthdays. The group bakes about 100 cakes each year on requests from out-of-state parents.
Members of the Women's Board also opened their homes to Westminster students during the 2002 Winter Olympics when the dorms were converted to Olympic lodging.
"We don't have to do it. We love to do it," board member Betty Myers said.
While many women's boards are no longer functioning, member Mariana Mavor said the secret to Westminster's success has been the lively personalities of the group.
"These ladies work so hard. It's a lot of camaraderie," said Mavor, who joined the group just three years ago. "These women are just hilarious."