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Time, 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, generous, 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.

Helen Peine 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.

Decades later Helen would laugh at her irritation with the restricting uniforms—wool bloomers, middy blouses, and long white stockings. The bloomers made the players’ legs 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 Bell 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 critical surgery 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 basic 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.

Dick 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.”