UA Women’s Club celebrating 100 years of supporting women and students


100 April 18 Susan photo a.jpgOne of the longest-running University of Akron (UA) social organizations is marking a milestone anniversary with events that reflect its history and celebrate its longtime support of the UA community.

The University of Akron Women’s Club turned 100 years old in 2023, and is still providing connection and engagement opportunities for the campus, as was its original purpose when it was founded. The club is in its fourth decade of awarding scholarships to students.

The club hosted a 100th anniversary celebration during its spring general meeting on April 18 and will host a tree dedication on May 23. The tree is located outside Olin Hall, named for the husband of one of the founders.

The Women’s Club was founded by Grace Belle Gorton Olin, a graduate of UA when it was known as Buchtel College and wife of Charles Olin, a longtime math professor and secretary of the College; Agnes Whiton Simmons, a Buchtel College graduate and wife of Hezzleton E. Simmons, who would later serve as the University’s president; and Gladys Weeks, a University staff member. The women formed the club at the request of Parke Kolbe, who was the president of the University at the time when Buchtel College was transitioning to the Municipal University of Akron. Grace Olin was the first president of the club.

Carrie Tomko, senior lecturer in the Drs. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Honors College, joined the club nearly 20 years ago as a UA graduate student after attending an information session one evening. Inspired by some of the club members she met that night, she became a member herself. Tomko has been the president since 2019.

“I knew it was a place to be mentored,” said Tomko, who a bachelor’s degree from the College of Business and a master’s degree from the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences. “The members and the activities were so inviting, and with the ultimate goal of raising scholarship funds, I knew it was a place where I would be enriched and ultimately give back to students.”

The original purpose of the club was to establish a social outlet for faculty wives and other women on campus, and to promote social connection for new faculty members. In 1981, the club added a scholarship program, which expanded in 1992 with a major endowment campaign led by longtime club member Carolyn Cox. The program is now known as the Carolyn Cox Scholarship Fund of The University of Akron Women’s Club.

Cox was one of the women whom Tomko met the night she attended her first information session. Along with the three founders, Cox will also be honored during the May 23 tree dedication. A bronze plaque that will be placed by the tree notes that Olin, Simmons and Weeks planted the seeds and sprouted the group, and Cox grew the group through the campaign.

“She’s known as the lady who took the organization and said, ‘This needs to be about scholarship,’” Tomko said.

Cox taught in the Department of Developmental Program for 16 years, and her husband, David Cox, was a member of the Urban Studies and Philosophy Department for 19 years. David Cox’s office was located in Olin Hall, another reason the tree planting will be held there.

Tomko said there are currently about 50 club members, most of whom are active. When the club was founded, membership was composed of mostly faculty wives. Later in its history, the club was open to professors, graduate students and staff. Today, the club is open to those beyond the University, with a sponsorship from a University-connected club member.

When the club started, it was open to all women affiliated with the University – alumnae, staff and faculty, and wives of staff and faculty. The club is now open to anyone with a tie to the University, and in an effort to grow membership, those in the broader community who may not have a direct connection to the University may join with sponsorship from a club member.

The club has a number of social groups that meet several times a year. The groups each have a focus on different interests and activities, such as book reviews, hiking, performing arts, gourmet dinners, current events and touring local sites of interest. Events usually have a fundraising element in addition to the enrichment and social opportunities.

The 100th anniversary event, which was held at the Preservation House in Akron, included several past presidents of the club. University of Akron President Gary L. Miller attended, as did Akron Mayor Shammas Malik, who read a proclamation from the city noting the club’s anniversary.

The club also partnered for the evening with Summit County Historical Society for a display of a Victorian-era trunk with clothing and artifacts from the 1920s. Tomko and others dressed in period clothes. The club also displayed a silver tea set that was frequently used by the club during events held in its earliest days, and scrapbooks from the collection of the UA Archives. There was also a time capsule for members to place their written memories and thoughts for future members to read.

The tree commemoration ceremony will be followed by a campus tour of nearby University gardens, as well as conversation about the changes to campus over the years.

“I’m very enthusiastic about our organization and the good it does,” Tomko said. “These women look out for other women and want to help people. When I’m going through rough things in my life, I know I can call someone for support. It’s not in our bylaws, but that’s what we do.”

Media Contact: Cristine Boyd 330-972-6476,