Founder's Daughter: History of a Milligan Award, 1951-2000
curated by Katherine N. Banks, University Archivist
Milligan has celebrated a time for alumni to return to the campus and gather together for many years. While it is not clear when Milligan began holding homecoming events – the first mention in print is in the 1916 catalog when it was a summer gathering – it is clear that celebrations were being held in earnest by the 1950s. Holloway and Fierbaugh state in their book Scholarship, Community, Faith: Milligan Celebrates 150 Years, “With the cancellation of football [in 1950], Homecoming became known as Founder’s Day, an annual celebration of the history and heritage of the college....Instead of crowning a homecoming queen, the college named a Founder’s Daughter, someone seen as the embodiment of the ideals upon which the college was founded. Mary Lou Oakley (1954) was honored as Milligan’s first Founder’s Daughter in 1951."
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Founder’s Daughter selection was a major part of the Founder’s Day celebrations. The 1961-1962 student handbook states, “The gala week end culminates in the selection of the Founder's Daughter at the annual banquet. She embodies the fine Christian character which Josephus Hopwood would wish to attribute to his daughter." Notice the use of the word “culminates,” which indicates that choosing the Founder’s Daughter was the highlight of the weekend. Holloway and Fierbaugh also note the importance of this tradition: “The crowning of the Founder’s Daughter was one of the highlights of Founder’s Day in the 1950s. Young ladies were nominated by clubs and organizations, which produced ‘campaign’ pieces on their behalf, and elected by the student body."
By the 1970s, the Founder’s Daughter award began to see some changes. In the 1978-1979 academic year, a Black woman – Majorie "Maggie" Richards – won runner-up in the contest. By 1985, Adeline Prophete, also a Black woman, won the Founder’s Daughter award. The contestant's choice of clothing was also becoming less formal, as they wore attire more similar to church or business attire. Karen Tice, who has studied beauty pageants, focusing especially on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, states, “Merely being pretty and dignified is now [in the 1990s] touted as passé and shallow, whereas new versions of disciplined and fit bodies, achievement, determination, volunteerism, and leadership are valorized….Boasting ‘grueling’ knowledge quizzes, interviews with faculty and staff, and essay-writing requirements, most pageants employ new discourses of achievement, leadership, upward mobility, service, and professional development to justify their contests. Queens now are expected to articulate lofty aspirations, show evidence of campus involvement, and possess a ‘platform’ of community service, leadership, and professional orientations” (267). While the Founder's Daughter candidate qualifications were maybe not quite as exhaustive as Tice indicates pageants had become in the 1990s, it is obvious from the materials presented here that the focus was more on character and less on looks.
This tradition of selecting a Founder’s Daughter would continue on until 2000, when the last Founder’s Daughter, Rachel Knowles, was selected. Then, until 2004, a Founder’s Award was given to men and women. Since then, other honors awards, such as the Ivor Jones Outstanding Senior award, have taken the place of the Founder's Award and Homecoming awards are only given to alumni. The history of the Founder's Daughter award can tell us what Milligan College thought it meant to be a "child of Hopwood" throughout the years.
Annuals of Milligan College, 1914-1923. https://archive.org/details/milligancollegearchives?&sort=date
Holloway, Clinton J., and Fierbaugh, Dr. A Lee. Scholarship, Community, Faith: Milligan Celebrates 150 Years. Milligan College, TN: Milligan College, 2015.
Tice, Karen W. “Queens of Academe: Campus Pageantry and Student Life.” Feminist Studies 31, no. 2 (2005): 250–83. https://doi.org/10.2307/20459025.
Student Handbook of Milligan College, 1961-1962. https://mcstor.library.milligan.edu/handle/11558/6160
(Buffalo Yearbook Staff, Milligan College, Tenn., 1951)This page from the 1951 Buffalo yearbook shows the predecessor to the Founder's Day/Founder's Daughter festivities: Homecoming, complete with a Homecoming Queen.
(1954-11-25)4th Annual Founder's Day, November 25, 1954 Diane Walker, 1954 Founder's Daughter Left to Right: Marilyn Smith, Anne Robinson, Alice Jermyn, Diane Walker, Margaret Saunders, Margaret Jane Smithson, Mary Speer, Phyllis Wright
(1955)Left to Right: Jerry Hughes, Ruth Eason, Don Williams, Barbara Fisher, James Fisher, Shirley Holthouser, Ronald Spotts, Patsy Masters, Glen Barton, Anne Robinson, Robert Walther, Barbara Smith