By DOUG HABERLAND
Director of Publications, Culver Military Academy
CULVER — Culver Military Academy faculty-staff daughters will reunite, May 13-15. Sixty years ago, several CMA teachers gathered to talk about, what was then, a novel idea. “Why not let our daughters attend this all-boys school? After all, they have the same right to a fine education as our sons have.” In the fall of 1957, the first nine faculty daughters walked out their front doors and into CMA history.
“It was not easy those first couple of years,” commented Greta Hughes (’59), one of the first two girls to graduate. “The boys didn’t want us there and neither did many of the instructors. It wasn’t fun being the token girl in a class. However, with all of the troubles many of us faced as the first co-eds, I wouldn’t change that education for anything.”
Her comments are echoed by many of the 57 faculty and staff daughters who walked the grounds of Culver from 1957 to 1971. On May 12-15, 30 of these graduates are expected to return to campus for their own special reunion during the traditional Alumni Reunion Weekend.
By the middle of the 1960s, 22 girls had graduated and cadets were now accustomed to faculty daughters being on campus, but attitudes were still hard to change. Jean Maull Schuster (’65) remembers, “We were so unusual that our classmates really didn’t know how to think about us. Yes, we had to struggle to be respected and included, but we achieved in spite of this. We were not in the same category as ‘normal’ girls, and we regarded each other as comrades, in a shared struggle to survive and thrive in an ‘abnormal’ school environment. And we did it very well.”
Cindy Marshall (’71) agrees, “I’m grateful that I grew up in Culver and that my father taught at the Academy, where parents from around the world enrolled their sons. I was more than prepared academically for college because of it, but I still found the school more challenging socially. The awkward situation of some of the administration treating us as less than equal to cadets caused the majority of cadets to treat us that way as well. If we were not interested in theater, one of the few things the administration approved us to do, there was little else available to us to have a chance to interact with the boys as equals or as friends except for the classroom.”
These women, now between 63 and 75 years old, will come back to a school whose evolution to coed is, in part, because of the brave 57 girls who integrated Culver Military Academy. “I’m so proud of who we are as a group of Culver grads. And I think we are all stronger women because of who we were in a very male environment,” Maull Schuster said.
Culver Academy for Girls began in 1971-72, with coeds participating equally with cadets in all educational and co-curricular activities, ending the era of faculty daughters on campus.
“But we can definitely thank the female pioneers who broke the original barrier,” Maull Schuster said. “Culver has changed its very essence and has survived and thrived as the excellent educational institution it is today.”