In 1922, Dean of Women Mrs. Vida Smith initiated an HONOR ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, planned originally to be a club embodying “womanly womanhood.”
The honored women of the club were expected to provide service to their fellow students throughout the year to help make the environment conducive to the development of all women of the college. Initially, membership was determined by a vote of all women on campus – students, as well as faculty and staff – who selected eight women to represent them as Crescents.
Dorothy Briggs, who was named the first Crescent President, defined the organization based on its symbol – the crescent moon: “One increasing in power and light, one to lighten the dark paths, one to throw light on difficult problems of newcomers, one to lighten the problems of the dean and other administrative officers of Graceland.”
“As the moon reflects the glory of the sun, Crescents were to reflect the spirit and ideals of Graceland.”
-Early Crescent Scribe
As they have for many years in the past, Crescents gathered early Sunday morning on Homecoming 2022 weekend to share in their final breakfast. Red roses adorned the tables. Trudi Mahi ’69 Gunderson, a Crescent who could not attend from her home in Hawaii, sent watercolor paintings of flowers starting with each letter of the word CRESCENT that were auctioned to raise money for the Crescents Endowed Scholarship.
The breakfast was a constant at Homecoming, even after the club came to an end in 2011. The all-alumni Crescent breakfasts began in 2013 thanks to the efforts of Diane Eberly ‘67 Shelton, Louita Goode ’56 Clothier, and Benna Yarrington ’76 Easter. In subsequent years, Pam Freeman ’81 Worlund joined the steering committee.
The 2013 breakfast was a significant one as the idea was seeded for the permanent Crescent garden, which was dedicated the following year thanks to generous donations from former members. The triangular area near Walker Hall, formed by the crossing of three important sidewalks, was selected. The early hardscaping: a permanent walkway of crushed blue granite, a crescent figure inlaid in a circle with two colors of flagstone, blue sandstone pavers outlining the walk and shrub beds, and two benches, which helped to frame the centerpiece of the garden — a three-ton granite rock to hold the permanent plaque, cementing the legacy of this important Graceland organization.
At the dedication in 2014, Clothier (pictured with Velma Ruch, seated), offered a poem dedicated to the garden.
The garden is here because Crescents
and the ideals they represented
should never be forgotten.
The gratitude we feel for the life-long
influence of Crescents in each of us
should never be forgotten.
The vision is for a peaceful place
to relax, to reflect, to be reminded of those ideals.
For decades to come, young people can say,
“I’ll meet you in the Crescent Garden.”
–Louita Goode ’56 Clothier
The late Distinguished Professor Emerita Velma Ruch ’41, PhD felt a deep personal connection to the Crescents. Born in 1921 in Lamoni, she imagined herself being pushed around the campus by her parents and even encountering Vida Smith, the mother of the Crescent club and Dean of Women. Ruch served as a Crescent in 1940-41 and sponsored the organization for 20 years, hosting the meetings at her home across from the Commons.
100 years later, the spirit of the Crescents club lives on at Graceland. Paloma House even has an unofficial Crescent who carries on the legacy. The legacy of the Crescents also lives on in the Endowed Crescent Scholarship Fund, which is awarded annually to a female student who best represents the ideals of this venerable group of women.
The Essence of Crescents The essence of the Crescents at Graceland is the impact on the individuals they have touched through the years. Through kindness and a welcoming spirit, the Crescents have long embodied the spirit of belonging that runs deep through Graceland’s history. Their contributions were sometimes unseen and unnamed, but they were important because they helped students find their place on “the Hill.”
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