The day after the anniversary of Flora Stone Mather's 158th birthday, members of her namesake alumnae association of the former Flora Stone Mather College for Women gathered for a celebration.
The alumnae, dedicated to the empowerment of women, witnessed the grand opening of a special gift they provided to current and future students: Mather Park, Case Western Reserve University’s softball field.
"This is a great day for all of us," said Sandra Malek Vodanoff (FSM '59), final president of the Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Association. "We're sure she's (Flora Stone Mather) with us in spirit…cheering on the team."
More than a dozen members of the alumnae association joined Case Western Reserve University President Barbara R. Snyder, the softball team and university friends and supporters at the official ribbon cutting ceremony on April 7.
The Flora Stone Mather Alumnae Association announced in 2008 it would transfer the balance of its endowment to Case Western Reserve to support enhancing the student experience.
The naming of Mather Park, located on the north side of campus, was one of those gifts.
"The Mather women are some of the best women in the world," President Snyder said during the grand opening.
She noted the association’s long-standing commitment to and support of the university, including scholarships, the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women and now Mather Park. "I'm deeply grateful for all you've done and continue to do."
Softball, added to the university’s sports catalog in 1996, is the only varsity sport on campus solely for female athletes. “This is such a wonderful opportunity for women,” Charlotte Guggenheim (FSM ’62), said about Mather Park.
The alumnae association’s support of the softball field has allowed for superior facilities, said Dave Diles, director of athletics.
Mather Park features an amenity named in honor of another impressive woman: The Peggy Nicholls Press Box. The state-of-the-art facility was a generous donation from the family of Glenn Nicholls, vice president for student affairs. The press box honors the memory of his late wife.
“I’ve been privileged to be surrounded by remarkable women,” Nicholls said. He told guests gathered for the grand opening ceremony that Peggy believed in opportunities for women, and that women “shouldn’t have any sort of barriers or obstacles” in their path.
Shortly before the Spartans took on John Carroll University in a double header, the softball team changed into yellow T-shirts with the name “Mather” emblazoned across the front. They presented each alumnae association member with a signed and framed architectural rendering of Mather Park.
"We feel grateful to honor these women," said Lauren Wolz, a sophomore biology major who plays first base and right field.
As the game got underway, Patricia Kilpatrick (FSM'49, GRS'51), took her seat in the stands. "Our university has worked so hard to support athletics for women and men. I'm proud of our administration."
She added that it was "rewarding to see this great facility for women. We Mather alums like to do this kind of stuff," she said with a smile.