Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women


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Catharine S. Eberly

The Eberly Center for Women: 20 Years of Service by Carrie Lewis
Catharine S. Eberly

At 1:45 p.m., November 15, 1979, a tractor-trailer, driven by a 22-year-old man jackknifed on highway U.S. 24 in Wood County, Ohio near the Henry County line, went out of control and hit an automobile containing two women. The passenger, Beatrice Sloan, died later at the Medical Center, Grand Rapids, Ohio; but her daughter, Catharine Eberly, the driver, died immediately on the spot. The Toledo Blade reported that both women, mother and daughter, belonged to the American Jersey Cattle Club; and the University of Toledo Collegian identified Catharine as part-owner and business manager of Hoof Prints Dairy Farm in McClure, Ohio. But back in Toledo she was currently known best as a Trustee of the University of Toledo, serving a nine-year appointment, and a member of the Advisory Board for the University's Center for Women. (Amazingly, another member of the Advisory Board, State Legislator Irma Karmol, had also been killed in a car accident, seven months before.

What had brought Catharine to this field of interest in education? Born in Arcadia, Ohio, Catharine moved with her family to Toledo where her father, Dr. Walter B. Sloan, practiced medicine as a General Practitioner. Her mother, Beatrice, taught school in a one-room schoolhouse at Malinta, Ohio, from 1912 to 1921, before Catharine Lorene was born. Thus personal dedication to education was part of her heritage.

She attended the University of Toledo from 1940 to 1944, graduating in January. These were World Was II years and as such. I believe, formative in forging her later ties to the University. In fact, a pleasant experience which occurred during her first autumn on campus showed what a benevolent woman could do for a University. On November 17, 1940, University students, under the leadership of junior Marjorie Ebert, launched a campaign to furnish the 201-foot tower of University Hall with a set of chimes. (For those unfamiliar with Bancroft Campus, the tower is the symbol of the University on Bancroft Street; its four clocks, one on each side, made of bronze and twelve feet high from top to bottom, are the largest in the city.) The cost of the chimes was quoted at $3,100.00, a sum to be raised and contributed by students, faculty, and alumni.

No sooner has the announcement appeared in the Toledo Times than Mrs. Walter B. Snyder phoned to ask President Philip Nash if she might be allowed to contribute the entire fund herself in honor of her husband, a broker, who had died in 1929. The offer was enthusiastically and gratefully received, and the money collected so far from students and faculty--several hundred dollars--was used to start an account to build a swimming pool on campus. As it turned out, before the needed sum could be raised, some $50,000, World War II became a fact in the United States economy, and the pool was postponed indefinitely.

As for the War itself and its effect upon the campus (as on most college campuses in the country), University historian Frank Hickerson comments: "The first noticeable effects of World War II at the University of Toledo came in 1940-41 when enrollment started to fall gradually (this was Catharine's first year), but after Pearl Harbor men students seemed to melt away. One by one or in blocks they disappeared from the campus.... Energetic women took over most offices in student affairs." (Emphasis added.) This was good training and provided a good example for the later woman trustee. As the 1944 Blockhouse (yearbook) put it: "Men are hard to find but activities aren't."

Hickerson states that by 1943, when school assembled in the fall, (Catharine's senior year), there were only 270 men on campus, including four members of the football team. This probably posed no problem for Catharine, who planned to leave in January anyway. William S. Eberly, who matriculated in 1939, had been able to graduate in 1943 before going off into military service. William and Catharine had met on the Blockhouse and Collegian staffs and William, though enrolled in the College of Business Administration, worked as sound-effects man for the University's Theatre Department (his fraternity brothers called him the "showman"), an interest which put him in closer touch with Catharine's world of Arts and Sciences.

Catharine herself belonged to the social sorority Kappa Pi Epsilon (later, when the local sororities "went national," called Chi Omega), the YWCA and French Club. Other activities she and William had in common: during his senior year he chaired the Prom Committee, an office she had co-chaired when a sophomore; and, again during his senior year, he represented Alpha Phi Omega on the Panhellenic Council (men only, at the time), while she was secretary-treasurer of the parallel body for women, the Inter-Sorority Council.

So they married and, after the War, lived for the most part in Toledo, except for a period of twelve years (1953-65), when William served as business manager for the Milwaukee Braves. (Like Walter B. Snyder, he later went into the stockbroker business.) The couple had two sons, Michael and Stephen.

It was in the 1970's when the children were grown and Catharine was in her fifties that she became more involved in civic affairs. A member of the Jail Action Improvement League, she acted as Chairman of the panel reviewing plans for the new Lucas County jail, which was completed in Summer, 1976. She was also active in the League of Women Voters.

But other than the jail, her work with the University is doubtless her most lasting monument. Appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1974, she immediately made herself sensitive to the affairs of women students on campus, an interest that bore much fruit. Remarks by John Straub, President of the University of Toledo Board, at her funeral on November 19, 1979, bear this out: "Those who knew her well described her with one encompassing word... friend... Kate cared most for the human side of the University... No Trustee was more determined to consider the student point of view before Board action was taken."

Straub spoke of her "characteristic diligence and determination," besides her "total commitment regardless of the time necessary to complete the task and objectivity." Her "greatest contribution was her passionate conviction that equality for women would be a reality if women demonstrated their abilities to perform and then demanded their fair share of any worthwhile endeavor."

This point so impressed John Straub that he approached it again, from a slightly different angle. "I believe Kate's most lasting contribution..." he said, "is her pressure on us for sensitivity to the goals and aspirations of women. She did this by example, by her calm logic and, when necessary, with forceful, but always polite, persuasion."

The University of Toledo Center for Women was established after Catharine had been a Trustee for three years. Under the aegis of the new Dean of University College, Mary Ann Heinrichs, it operated out of the College offices from September 1977 to March 1978, when its facilities were moves to Scott House on the northwest corner of the campus. Catharine Eberly, as the only woman trustee at the time (Lois E. Kennedy had joined her on the Board by 1979), and a much-admired one, was asked to serve on the Advisory Board of the Center from the beginning. Her interest in it never flagged.

Following her death, it was decided to name the Center after her in her memory, and the dedication took place under the new name on Sunday, December 7, 1980. A portrait of Catharine by Walter Chapman was unveiled as a gift from the University to the Center on this occasion.

There are few personal mementos of Catharine in University files, but a folder in the Archives on the fifth floor of the Library does contain a sheet written in her hand.

Elizabeth Steele A copy of Catharine S. Eberly's letter

The above entry is from Volume I of In Search of Our Past: Women of Northwest Ohio. This is part of a eleven Volume Series profiling admirable women. Call 530-8570 for more information.

Last Updated: 6/26/15