curated by Katherine Banks

Sarah Eleanor (LaRue) Hopwood (1846-1935)

First Lady 1875-1903, 1915-1917

Husband: Josephus Hopwood

Sarah Hopwood was Milligan's first First Lady. Originally a teacher before marrying Josephus in 1874, Sarah continued teaching at the Buffalo Male and Female Institute and then Milligan College. She additionally oversaw the Hopwood House, also known as the Young Ladies' Home. You can see her influence at Milligan in the motto "Christian Education - The Hope of World" as well as in the steps down to the water wheel on Buffalo Creek, which she had built. Sarah and Josephus retired to a home overlooking Milligan, the place they had poured much of their lives into.

Olive Leola (Hanen) Garrett (1869-1933)

First Lady 1903-1908

Husband: Henry Garrett

Olive Garrett had many connections to Milligan besides being its second First Lady. She graduated from Milligan and taught music classes. Like her predecessor, she managed the Young Ladies' Home with her husband.

Pearl Katherine (Archer) Kershner (1880-1912)

First Lady 1909-1911

Husband: Frederick Kershner

Pearl Kershner became first lady after serving as a language teacher at Milligan for several years when she married Frederick in 1909. She was a graduate of Albion College (1903) and University of Michigan (1904). Sadly, only the next year after leaving Milligan, Pearl passed away from complications due to a miscarriage.

Aileen (Moore) Utterback (1873-1940)

First Lady 1911-1913

Husband: Tyler Utterback

Aileen Utterback was only first lady for a brief time, but during that time she was listed as a voice student in the 1912-1913 year. *

Allie (McCorkel) McDiarmid (1877-1972)

First Lady 1913-1914

Husband: Errett McDiarmid

Allie McDiarmid was first lady for a year. The McDiarmid family was the first presidential family to live in Milligan's president's house, now McCown Business Office.*

Elizabeth (Murphy) McKissick (1877-1959)

First Lady 1914-1915

Husband: James McKissick

Elizabeth McKissick was also only first lady for a year. She had attended Nashville BIble College, now Lipscomb University.*

Perlea Derthick (1879-1954)

First Lady 1917-1940

Husband: Henry Derthick

Perlea Derthick was Milligan's first lady during a period of growth and change. Perlea married Henry (her first cousin) in 1897 and worked with him in Christian education before coming to Milligan. Her first impressions of Milligan were not good, but she took her role as first lady to heart. She served in many roles on campus, including dean of women and dietician. She also oversaw campus landscaping, including her "Milligan the Beautiful" campaign during the 1930s which transformed the campus. Although she could be strict, she was like a mother to students and kept correspondence with them after they graduated. Finally, because Henry was often away on business, Perlea operated as the acting president overseeing daily operations. For all of this work, Perlea did it all as a volunteer.

Florence Elizabeth (Anthony) Burns (1888-1963)

First Lady 1940-1944

Husband: Charles Burns

Florence Burns was Milligan's first lady during the beginning of WWII. She did many of the same things as Perlea Derthick, including running the cafeteria and doing many duties that arose when Milligan was turned over to the Navy V-12 trainee program. Before becoming first lady, she had helped spearhead an effort to update and expand Hopwood Memorial Christian Church on campus. She also cared about children, as she had worked with the juvenile court in Indiana and had fostered an abandoned boy.

Geneva Dora (Tarr) Elliott (1902-1991)

First Lady 1944-1948

Husband: Virgil Elliott

Geneva Elliott served as first lady after the Burns family left. Together with President Elliott, she wrote to students in the 1948 Buffalo, "Be courageous and live honorably, and life's issues will be met successfully."

Mary Lewis (1894-unknown)

First Lady 1948-1950

Husband: Elmer Lewis

Mary Lewis was Milligan's first lady as her husband, Elmer, served in an interim capacity for a brief time. She also served as a secretary in the executive office.

Florence (Ley) Walker (1898-1960)

First Lady 1950-1960

Husband: Dean Walker

Florence Walker was first lady during the first part of Dean Walker's long tenure. She was active in local organizations as well as the Zelotai Club, a club she formed for ministry students' wives. Sadly, she passed away in 1960 while Dean Walker was still president.

Dorothy (Keister) Walker (1920-1999)

First Lady 1962-1968

Husband: Dean Walker

Dorothy Keister Walker became Milligan's first lady when she married the widowed Dean Walker in 1962, the same year Milligan gave her an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. She had previously earned degrees in Education, Church History, and Religious Education, the latter two being at Butler University and Butler School of Religion (now Christian Theological Seminary), where she had studied under Dean Walker. Before marrying Dean Walker, she had been an evangelist with the Jones-Keister Evangelistic team during the early 1950s. She also led The Mission to Women programs across the country from 1959 on for several years. She was one of many founders of Emmanuel School of Religion (now Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan), as well as being an ordained minister in the Christian Churches.

*No photos available


Cornwell, Cynthia Ann. Beside the Waters of the Buffalo: A History of Milligan College to 1941. Milligan College, TN: Milligan College History Project, 1989.

Holloway, Clinton J. and Fierbaugh, Dr. A Lee. Scholarship, Community, Faith: Milligan Celebrates 150 Years. Milligan College, TN: Milligan College, 2015.

The People of Carter County, Tennessee. Carter County Tennessee and Its People, 1796-1993. Elizabethton, TN: Carter County History Book Committee, 1993.

Reference files, including Pension Fund files, in the Holloway Archives

Mill-Agenda, Johnson City Press(-Chronicle), Milligan catalogs, Buffalo yearbooks, and Stampedes

US Census Records

Recent Submissions

View more


© Milligan University. All Rights Reserved.