A speech in Chapel by
Dean Emeritus Helen M. Smith
on April 1948,
honoring Flora Stone Mather.
We have met today to honor Mrs. Flora Stone Mather who was born in Cleveland April 1852. Mrs. Bishop, Mrs. Mather’s daughter, tells us that, “one of her (mother’s) cherished childhood recollections was Abraham Lincoln’s visit to Cleveland on the way to his inauguration in Washington. She proffered him a little bunch of flowers and received a kiss from him in return.” It is not of Mrs. Mather’s childhood, however, that I wish to speak but rather of her varied interest and especially her interest in this college.
Emerson said “an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” If he could see this college today, I think he would day this institution is pretty nearly the lengthened shadow of one woman, Flora Stone Mather.
The buildings on this campus speak eloquently of here. She gave Guilford House as a tribute to her former teacher Miss Linda Guildford. Although Mrs. Mather shunned publicity, she was prevailed upon to speak on its presentation at the College, principally, I believe, that she might acknowledge her debt and the debt of the community to the inspiration of Miss Guilford who taught her girls to seek the things of “supremest worth.”
Mrs. Mather gave Haydn Hall, but delegated the presentation of it to the College to Mrs. Worcester Warne then president of the Advisory Council who said Mrs. Mather chose not to speak for herself.
Flora Mather House was the gift of the alumnae and their friends in loving recognition of what Mrs. Mather had done for their Alma Mater. If you will read the bronze tablet at the entrance of that dormitory, you will see what the givers thought of Mrs. Mather.
The Mather Memorial Building was the gift of her husband and children as a fitting and lasting memorial to her. Truly this campus speaks eloquently of her.
But the beauty of Mrs. Mather giving was that she gave so unsparing of herself. She was a frail woman all her life, yet with the urgent demands of a large house and growing children, church and community affairs, she found time to make frequent visits to Guilford House, often staying for lunch with the sixteen girls who lived there getting acquainted with them and their needs and the needs to make living there more comfortable and homelike. She brought flowers and books for the sparse library and books to individual girls which she thought they might enjoy reading.
She did not forget the interest of the town girls. She gave Haydn Hall especially so that the town girls might have a place for relaxation and comfort when they had to spend long hours on the campus and had no place but the basement of Clark Hall for other than academic activities.
She brought to the Chapel noted lecturers and musicians, whom the students might otherwise have seen and heard. On one occasion she brought, from Boston, Villa White who had a glorious soprano voice and gave an all-Grieg program. For one of the students in that audience, interest in Grieg’s music began on that day.
She was a very wise, understanding and fair woman.
In the early days it wasn’t considered quite proper for young ladies to go to a down-town hotel without an escort. Because there were no facilities for serving large number on the campus, the students decided to go to a hotel for a banquet. The Advisory Council perhaps wisely objected. One student was delegated to talk about it with Mrs. Mather. With her usual generosity she offered to pay the whole expense for a caterer to serve the banquet on the campus. But when it was pointed out to her that that would defeat the very purpose of getting the students to do something for themselves, she said, “I see your point, go a head with your banquet at the hotel.”
Mrs. Mather never put herself in the foreground. She worked through other people and never sought credit for her deeds.
You have seen that although she gave Guilford House and Haydn Hall, she put Miss Guilford in the foreground on one occasion and had another person for Haydn Hall.
President Thwing said she was one of the most self-less women ever known to him. And yet Mrs. Mather was the guiding spirit in the many organizations she sponsored. Dr. Haydn turned to her to make the Advisory Council of interest to the prominent women who belonged to it. Church organizations testified to her wisdom in straightening out differences and difficulties without offending anyone.
Her work with the Home for Aged Women, The Children’s Aid Society, the Day Nursery Association, the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Associations, the Welfare Federation, Goodrich House, struggling schools, churches, and colleges the country over, much have meant a great tax on her strength and composure. Dr. Meldrum, her pastor said to her: “Mrs. Mather it is easier to ask you for a contribution that to thank you for it” and she replied, “That is as it should be. It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Self-effacement was so characteristic of her. As early as 1898 the President, the Advisory Council, the students and the alumnae were interested in an appropriate name for the College. Although a number of names were suggested and rejected, all agreed upon one name, “but the woman who bore it was too modest to permit its use.” As Professor Bourne said: “Happily three decades later it could be made the name of the College – Flora Stone Mather.
Mrs. Mather died in 1909. A half–hour service of utmost simplicity was conducted a the Old Stone Church, where she had so long worshipped. Then the funeral procession moved slowly to Lake View Cemetery. At Adelbert College and the College for Women hundreds of students of the University stood at attention to pay their last tribute to the one who had done so much for them.
It is an amazing thing that one so frail could have lived such a triumphant life, accomplished so much, meant so much to so many people, to this city and to so many the country over.
No fonder hope could be entertained than that this College should express itself, in its students and graduates the wisdom, graciousness, and understanding that characterized Mrs. Mather.
The Mather Memorial Building was the gift of her husband and children as a fitting and lasting memorial to her.
She gave Guilford House as a tribute to her former teacher
Miss Linda Guildford.
Flora Mather House was the gift
of the alumnae and their friends in loving recognition of what
Mrs. Mather had done for their Alma Mater.
Originally a combination of dormitory and classroom building, Haydn Hall was given to the college by Flora Stone Mather.
The building was named in honor of Hiram Collins Haydn, fifth president of Western Reserve University.
Amasa Stone Chapel.
This dignified Gothic chapel was designed by Henry Vaughn, a Boston architect who made a career of recreating English gothic chapels in America.
The Chapel was given by Clara Stone Hay, wife of U.S. Secretary of State John Hay, and Flora Stone Mather as a memorial to their father, Amasa Stone.