When the first graduates of the Culver Academy for Girls – later Culver Girls Academy – received their diplomas in June, 1972, they ushered in a new age for the institution launched in 1894 as only Culver Military Academy…today Culver Academies.
The 16 graduates of the Culver Academy for Girls Class of 1972 helped bring to fruition what began in the fall of 1957, when the first two female students to graduate from Culver, Greta Hughes and Jean Curry, began attending classes.
For the next 15 years, faculty daughters, or “co-eds,” were part of the campus community and graduated with Culver Military Academy diplomas, though they were not permitted to walk through CMA’s Iron Gate.
The first formal program for girls at Culver launched in 1965 with the Culver Summer School for Girls, an important precursor to CGA which proved coeducation could be successful here.
Former English instructor Mary Frances England directed the Summer School for Girls from 1967 to ’70, and was thus well prepared not only for her tenure as the first CAG Dean of Girls during that 1971-72 school year, but also a principle architect of CAG-CGA’s program, traditions, and identity.
Initial research was conducted after which, in April of 1970, The Culver Educational Foundation Board of Trustees voted in favor of opening a girls school in September 1971.
The initial uniform consisted of navy blazer, MacGregor kilt, white blouse, “handi-wipe” shirt-waist dresses, mix-and-match skirt and sweater sets, and navy herringbone slacks. The first graduating class wore the white gowns that have become CAG-CGA graduation tradition.
Graduates included Priscilla Bardes, Carol Cassidy, Claudia Hibbard, Carol Jones, Karen McKee, Petra Nicholson, Susan Roos, Melissa Williams, Gail Stants, Eve Schultz, Susan Powers, Marjorie Miller, Brenda Kowatch, Sally Hodder, Kim Goettle, and Linda Bullock.
The first senior prefect Sally Hodder, a pioneer in battling the HIV epidemic, would go on to become the first female Culver Graduate of the Year in 1996.
The Culver class gift in 1972 was for a CAG scholarship, a clear message to Culver that the girls were here to stay.
CAG’s name would be changed in January, 1975, to its present Culver Girls Academy, and that same year, a graduation tradition unique to Culver’s girls school came to the fore in the Graduation Arch, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Pepson, Class of ’43, and designed by Mai Fan England. Never again would the young women taking their place alongside generations of Culver graduates walk “through the hedge” at Commencement as did the pioneering graduates of CAG in 1972.
Instead, Culver’s daughters have become integral to the strength and success of the institution their presence has graced for over half a century.