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Mortar Board (Society). Barbara Cook Chapter



  • Existence: 1924 -

Historical Information

The Mortar Board chapter at Purdue University began with the creation of the SLS honor society in the fall of 1924. The ideals and goals of SLS were embodied in its name, the letters standing for Service, Leadership, and Scholarship. The seven senior women inducted into the organization in 1924 initially operated secretly and individually within the community to achieve these standards; the ultimate goal was to eventually secure affiliation with the National Mortar Board society. Beginning with the first class of inductees in the spring of 1925, SLS moved into the public sphere and began to operate as a cohesive unit. SLS restricted membership to senior women with a minimum grade average of 85, and they were initiated during May Day festivities of their junior year.

The focus within SLS was on providing opportunities for and recognition of leadership by women students and the support of their character development. From its inception, the group aligned itself with other women’s organizations and leaders on campus including the Women’s Athletic Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and the Purdue Office of the Dean of Women. During the spring of 1926, SLS members began to more actively pursue their proposal for acceptance into the National Mortar Board society. Members compiled a petition in scrapbook form to be presented by an SLS delegate at the National Mortar Board Conference in November of 1926. The book contains historical information about and photos of Purdue, SLS, and SLS members and alumnae. Also included in the book are several letters of support from regional Mortar Board chapters and prominent members of Purdue faculty.

After their petition was approved in the fall of 1926, SLS changed their name to the Mortar Board honor society. Membership was still restricted to senior women of high scholastic aptitude. Dean Carolyn Shoemaker was a faculty member of the society and supported their various endeavors in the early years, including the sponsorship of a women’s glee club at Purdue, Alpha Lambda Delta, and the Gold Peppers. In addition to providing support for other women’s groups on campus, Mortar Board hosted annual dances, teas, and breakfasts and engaged in volunteer work in the community. By the 1930s, they also began to donate scholarship funds to the Dean of Women to be distributed to deserving women students; these early awards served as a precursor for the better-known Mortar Board scholarships and fellowships.

Beginning in 1945, Mortar Board also contributed financially to the scholarship funds offered jointly by the Gold Peppers and Women’s Panhellenic Association. Mortar Board’s contributions to the various scholarship funds were collected through their annual calendar sales. By 1955, calendar sales were successful enough to enable Mortar Board to establish a separate scholarship fund in addition to the money contributed to the jointly awarded scholarships. A report compiled by the Mortar Board Scholarship Committee indicates that by 1971, the group had contributed over $100k to women pursuing their education. After the advent of Title IX legislation and the inclusion of male students in the club, the scholarships became available to men as well—but it does seem as though women students and Mortar Board members and alumni were given precedence.

In addition to their significant contributions to scholarship funds at Purdue University, the Barbara Cook Chapter of the Mortar Board Society sponsored a number of other efforts at the university: lecture series, health clinics, and informational books. In addition, the group sponsored long-lasting testaments to their presence such as various memorials to the Deans of Women and Amelia Earhart and a pond/sitting area at the Ag Hort Park in honor of their 50th anniversary.

The club operates today with a continued focus on the tenets of scholarship, leadership, and service. Annual calendar sales still fund numerous scholarship and fellowship opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students.


Pleasant, Virginia. "Finding Aid to the Mortar Board records." 2014. MSP 148, Mortar Board records, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries. West Lafayette.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Barbara Cook papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 467
Overview The Barbara Cook papers predominantly document Barbara Cook's career in the Dean of Women and Dean of Students office and as professor of education at Purdue University (1956 - 1989), including her leadership roles in Mortar Board and NAWDAC -- National Association of Women Deans, Administrators, and Counselors. Types of material include correspondence, speeches, teaching material, articles and essays, and biographical information.
Dates: 1932 - 2012; Other: Date acquired: 11/04/2009

Marylu McEwen papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 102
Scope and Contents The Marylu McEwen papers document the personal and professional life of Marylu McEwen, from her time as a student at Purdue University from 1964-1968 through her long career in higher education. A large portion of the collection depicts her relationships with the Deans of Women and Deans of Students at Purdue University from her time as a student in the 1960s into adulthood and retirement. Types of materials include correspondence, clippings, photographs, speeches, and articles. Also included...
Dates: 1964 - 2014

Mortar Board records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 148
Scope and Contents The Mortar Board records (1924-2015; 6.95 cubic feet) document the establishment and myriad activities of the Barbara Cook Chapter of the Mortar Board National Society at Purdue University.  The collection reflects the changing scope of Mortar Board over the years, from their early supportive roles in the university, to their position as a major donor of scholarships and fellowships for women (and later men) students, and their devotion to fostering leadership skills in their members.  This...
Dates: 1924-2015; Other: Date acquired: 02/06/2014

Helen B. Schleman papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 334
Scope and Contents The Helen Schleman papers document the life of Helen B. Schleman from her time as a student at Northwestern University in the 1920s up until her death in 1992. Much of the collection documents Schleman’s tenure at Purdue University as Head of the Women’s Residence Halls, Dean of Women, and Dean Emeritus, as well as her military service in the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARs) during World War II. Additionally, the collection contains Schleman’s collection of newspaper clippings pertaining to...
Dates: 1920 - 2003; Majority of material found within 1934 - 1980

Beverley Stone papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 466
Overview Collection includes biographical documents, correspondence, speech notes and other materials documenting the life of Purdue’s first Dean of Students, Beverley Stone.
Dates: 1934 - 2012