CSU view: A brief history of the CSU Women’s Council
In 1966 there was a group called Baptist College at Charleston Women’s Club. The founding members were: Charlene Kirk, chairman; Mary Dobbins, Mattie Leigh Francese, Faye Hester, Margaret Mack, Epsie Reeves, Judy Stewart, and Marcia Wilson.
Those eight women had concern for scholarships for students in need as well as beautification projects for the university property. Mattie Leigh Francese’s daughter Martha Tallon is on our Council today and has written a wonderful remembrance of her mother who died in an automobile accident. The first scholarship was started in 1985 by the group and is named the Mattie Leigh Francese Scholarship. It is still being funded by projects that the group sponsors.
I had the pleasure of serving with Charlene Kirk, the first chairman. She was a lovely woman who cared about CSU and the students and was an eager participant in all the projects to raise money for scholarships and beautification of the university. Another of our scholarships is named in her honor – the Charlene Kirk Scholarship.
The group became the Women’s Auxiliary Advisory Council in 1983 and was often referred to as WAAC.
How did this small group of women raise money? Many ways! The biggest moneymaker was a dinner each spring that was planned by the Council and hosted by the university in the Dining Hall. Each member of the Council was responsible for selling 10 tickets at $10 per ticket. Early on they would have a fashion show featuring one of our Charleston stores. Members of the Council and their spouses, children, and friends were models for the show. As time went on instead of fashion shows we enjoyed special presentations by the Horton School of Music. It was a lot of work, and the most money we could make was $2,500, but it was $2,500 more for scholarships.
About 16 years ago the Council began to examine other, more lucrative ways of sponsoring scholarships. After much discussion we decided to try an auction – where our members would solicit items from local businesses to be auctioned on a Saturday morning in November and all proceeds would go to scholarships. (We also did beautification projects like the Gilmore Garden at the entrance to the university, and we raised money among ourselves and asked for donations from nurseries). Our first auctioneer was the sister of one of our members, and we raised $10,000 at our first auction! Now we had a means to grow our scholarships, and we eventually began the Women’s Council Scholarship in 2013, that we hope will someday provide a full-ride for a CSU student. We have also done other smaller projects including buying lockers for the baseball team a few years ago.
In 2007 the Council members realized our name no longer related to what we did. We didn’t advise anyone, and auxiliary was a word that wasn’t well known any longer. We had many discussions and finally decided that rather than re-invent the wheel we would just call ourselves the Women’s Council. We presented our desire to the president and the trustees, and they agreed to our name change.
The Women’s Council is sanctioned by the CSU Board of Trustees, and any changes we want to make to our bylaws or structure must be approved by them. In the beginning our CSU advisor was a person in the president’s office, but as time went on we became fundraisers, and we now have Jenny Rose of the development office as our advisor and helper. The CSU president’s wife is an ex officio member of the Women’s Council and is so important since she has the ear of the president and can make sure we don’t go beyond what is appropriate for the university.
In the last three years (two of which were closed for Covid) we have raised over $50,000 a year for scholarships. I believe that can grow as we seek God’s wisdom for our Council and Charleston Southern University and its students.
There have been many who have gone before who are no longer with us, but each one has contributed to the success we are now building on.
Phyllis Evans has been a member of the Women’s Council since 2000.