As an 18-year-old Senior Prefect in 1982-83, Anna Wildermuth’s perception of Dean Mary Frances England was one of “professionalism, dignity, and empowerment . . . She did not take the spotlight. She wanted us to shine!”
Fast forward to 2013: Dr. Anna Wildermuth is a pediatrician in Lafayette, Ind., who, with the benefit of an adult perspective, understands why England was so well-suited for the task of creating the girls’ school in the early 1970s.
“Dean England insisted on a separate school for girls,” said Wildermuth, the guest speaker for CGA’s Dean England Day Ceremony on Sept. 22 in Memorial Chapel. “She did not want it to simply be a replica of the boysʼ school. And I believe she had to present herself in a manner that garnered respect. Her professional, proper, and dignified aura made her a viable and forceful leader who could create a new school.
“She created a separate girls school that could coexist with a boys military school, which over time has allowed us to become One Culver, as it should be.”
The annual ceremony honors the memory of the Culver Girls Academy’s founder. In commemoration, 105 new girls received Dean England Day pins for their blazers and participated in the symbolic passing of lighted candles. The ceremony is planned and led by the CGA Council. In the spirit of One Culver, the council invites Cadet Club members to attend.
From her two vantage points, Wildermuth compared and contrasted England and offered assessments of the era.
From a student perspective, England “was very clear about what she believed we girls should be doing – excelling at academics, leadership and sports.”
Looking back, Wildermuth realizes why England didn’t want her girls to be cheerleaders. With the passage of Title IX in 1972, competitive sports for girls were given equal importance to that of boys’. “That is why she came to so many games and wrote so many notes to Culver’s female athletes. . . . Now we could play, and so, we should play!”
Wildermuth also now appreciates “how very close I was to the beginnings of the womenʼs/feminist movement. In 1979, I thought that I could and would do anything that I wanted to accomplish. I did not realize that so many women before me afforded me this opportunity to become a doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut, a professor – whatever I wanted. Women like Dean England did this.
“She cut a path at a time of great social upheaval; civil rights, the Vietnam War, and womenʼs rights movement,” Wildermuth said. “She was a distinguished woman of her time. She was right for her time, and I will always be grateful for her strength and drive.”
The valedictorian of her graduating class, Wildermuth was a Morehead Scholar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, graduating with a degree in biology. She graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine, did her residency in pediatrics at the University of Chicago Wyler’s Children Hospital, and finished her training at Duke University. She practiced pediatrics in Peru, Ind., for three years before joining Froberg Pediatrics in Lafayette, Ind., in 1999.
Wildermuth is a current member of the Legion Board of Directors and was named Culver Young Alumna of the Year in 1999. She is the mother of three Culver students: Andrew ’14, Madeleine ’16, and Isabella ’17. Wildermuth’s sister, Elizabeth Kantzer of Central Lake, Mich., is a 1993 alumna.