Talents, Gifts, and Service:
In Honor of Southwestern's Friends
Helen Waite '26
1903 - 2003
Helen Waite ’26 was
described as a friend of Southwestern who was well-informed, passionate,
and a champion of those
who need special attention during what would have been her 100th birthday
celebration April 26, 2003.
An emeritus trustee of the college, Mrs.
Waite died just days short of this milestone, on March 14. She
was eulogized by her daughter,
Mari Wallrabenstein ’60;
by President Dick Merriman, and by Dean David Nichols ’60.
arrived at Southwestern by train in the fall of 1922 with a goal of teaching
home economics, a new discipline in those years. She rose to the
challenging courses (which included chemistry, mathematics, economics, and
many hours in the laboratory) while playing championship basketball.
later Helen would laugh at her irritation with the restricting
bloomers, middy blouses, and long white stockings. The bloomers made the
look dumpy, she said, so the players would pull them up above the knees
to give the illusion of length.
Following graduation and a short
teaching career, she married Byron
Waite. They lived in several Oklahoma towns during his 20-year
career with Southwestern
and had two daughters, Aletha and Mariana.
“Heroic is the right word for Helen,” Dean
Nichols recalled. “Her
family literally lost everything in the Depression and she labored
arduously to help get them back on their feet. Her beloved husband,
Byron, was in frail
health much of his adult life and Helen supported him with intelligence
and skill in everything, including finances and his service on the
board of trustees of
the college. At one time, Helen was simultaneously caring for her parents,
her parents-in-law, two teenage daughters, and a husband undergoing
at the Mayo Clinic.”
Helen loved art and music and was a gifted
artist in varied media, Mari pointed out. “However, through
it all, it was not a matter of producing a particular work that was
to her life—it was the underlying principles of art
like line, color, harmony, and balance, that became a subconscious
part of her thinking and decision-making,” Mari said.
Merrman summed up Helen’s love of Southwestern.
“Helen was a great spirit,” he said. “She was a tremendous
benefactor of the college. She invested in people and really wanted to help them.
And she had an absolutely infectious sense of delight.”
A Stone for Miss Sellers
An appeal for help to provide a stone for the grave
of a beloved Southwestern College faculty member has prompted an
outpouring of generosity from
former students of Miss Grace Sellers.
Charles Muse ’55, Topeka,
asked former students to replace a temporary marker in the Lyons
Cemetery with a proper tombstone: More
than 70 responded,
and the amount donated not only paid for the stone, but (with the consent of
the donors) established a scholarship in Miss Sellers’ honor.
“It was so good to read the letters that came
with the contributions,” Muse writes. “They showed a great
many ways how much this lady impacted our lives. I was confident we
would have a good response, but I was thrilled to see how many decades
of Builders responded.”