Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

West Chester University has a rich history of powerful women leaders who made a positive, lasting impact on the campus. The proof is visible in the grand archways and pillars that make up many of the academic buildings, in the sturdy foundations of the residence halls, which serve as studentsʼ homes away from home, and in the bustling activity of the public buildings. Ramsey Hall, which will reopen for the fall 2005 semester, is named after Dorothy Ramsey, who taught English for 33 years at what was the West Chester State Teachersʼ College. In this Depression and war-torn era, Ramsey broke the conventions of a traditional teacher, said Michael Peich, an English professor. “Miss Ramsey was a highly revered member of the English department for years,” he said. “She was a popular professor, a different spirit; a Bohemian. She smoked cigarettes and did all the things that a proper lady wasnʼt supposed to do [at the time].” Peich also mentioned that Ramsey was popular with students because she “treated them like adults.” Many students came back after fighting in World War II, only to feel like “fish out of water” among the younger students, said Peich. Ramsey provided a safe haven for these men who had “seen the horrors of war” where they could read contemporary poetry and talk about literature. “They thought she walked on water,” said Peich. It was in Peichʼs Publishing and Typography classes that Ramseyʼs adopted great-granddaughter Julie Dietrich printed Ramseyʼs collection of personal poems as her student project. In the classes, students learn the “traditional craft of making books,” said Peich. “Itʼs all a hand process. They learn how to set type, make the sheets one at a time and then bind the books by hand.” Using the Aralia Press, located in the FHG Library, Dietrich followed the same steps to print the poems that Ramsey would have used back in the 1930s.

At the same time Ramsey was identified as a strong female leader, another was on her way to following in Ramseyʼs footsteps Ruby Jones Hall, which currently houses the Criminal Justice, Political Science, Geography and Planning, and Government and Politics departments, as well as offices for the College of Business and Public Affairs, is named after Ruby Jones, a 1940 graduate and the first black faculty member at WCU. Jones returned to her alma mater in 1961 to teach fourth grade in the Demonstration School, the building that now displays her namesake. Built in 1899 and originally called the Model School, it served as the starting point for seniors to practice their teaching.

During the tumultuous 1960s, when Jones began her teaching career, she “was active in easing tensions and promoting good will among people of all races,” said Cathleen McDermott in her 1999 article “Building Souls and Spirit,” which appeared in WCU Magazine. According to the article, Jones “served as cosponsor of the Student Christian Association, represented WCU on the Human Relations Council and the Human Relations Workshop and assisted the university in the recruitment of additional African American faculty.” Also, in addition to her time at the university, Jones was an active member of the West Chester community and various religious organizations, including the West Chester Community Center, A.M.E. Church and the Pennsylvania Council of Negro Womenʼs Clubs. In addition to Dorothy Ramsey and Ruby Jones, many other women have made their marks on this campus: Elsie O. Bull (E.O. Bull Center), Ann Goshen (Goshen Hall), Elizabeth Tyson (Tyson Hall), Gertrude Schmidt (Schmidt Hall), Grace McCarthy (McCarthy Hall) and Ella May Ehinger (Ehinger Gym).

“Strong women have always been and continue to be a presence at WCU,” said Jackie Hodes, Asst. to the Vice President for Student Affairs and advisor tothe Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Association. “Some women are strong leaders in the classroom, the administration and on staff. Some women make an impact on campus in quieter ways…the way they work with individual students, those who always express concern for others, the woman who is always willing to go out of her way for others. From what I read about the women for whom the buildings were named, they seemed to be a good combination of both…. compassionate leaders who care about their colleagues and the student body.

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