For 90 years, each meeting of the South Hills College Club (SHCC) has started the same way: Members drink tea poured from an antique silver service, eat scrumptious desserts and enjoy each others’ company before discussing club business. Roberta Campbell, a 49-year member of the club, polishes the silver herself before each meeting. She preserves the group’s tea tradition because she says it makes the SHCC unique and honors the organization’s past.
This fall, the group commemorated its nine decades with an anniversary celebration at South Hills Country Club.
In 1923, Mrs. C.C. Bigelow, Mrs. R.E. Taggart and Mrs. E.M. Grove founded the group so that women with college degrees in the South Hills area could help other women in the region pursue higher education. Keeping with that mission, the club began a tradition of awarding scholarships to deserving female high school graduates in the South Hills each year. The club also made regular donations to libraries.
Today, the group has approximately 120 members from many communities in the South Hills, including Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Bridgeville and Scott Township.
Women’s education has changed in the past 90 years, creating new opportunities for the SHCC to extend its traditions to current society.
More and more women return to school later in life. To keep up with this trend, the college club created the Returning Woman Scholarship, in addition to offering one high school scholarship each year. The Returning Woman Scholarship supports women who are going back to school to receive an advanced degree or plan to change careers.
Although a commitment to education is at the group’s core, Nancy Laitta, another longtime club member, says that developing fellowship is an equally important group function. The college club is composed of interest groups, collections of members who enjoy the same activities, including a bowling league, book club and the newly formed culture club. Campbell says that these interest groups were created to be “a little distraction” for members at a time when most women stayed home to take care of their children.
The women form strong bonds with one another in the interest groups. A few years ago Campbell was asked to take a position in her church office but declined the offer when she found out church meetings would conflict with her SHCC book club saying, “I’ve belonged to a literary group for 47 years. I can’t do it.”
The idea behind the culture club came about when several members mentioned that they enjoy art and museums but didn’t want to go alone. Although still in the planning stages, the culture club hopes to attend events such as the Pittsburgh Opera, symphony and ballet. Laitta, a member of the culture club, is excited about this particular group because members have the chance to give their input about what performances the group should attend.
Campbell is proud of the SHCC’s 90 years of promoting education for women and hopes that the club’s good work continues in the future.