College group chapter marks 40th anniversary

Arundel residents formed branch of university women's association


In 1950, Joyce Letaw left a Florida teaching job after one year to begin raising eight children. But she missed the companionship of other college-educated women, so years later, after moving to Anne Arundel County, she joined the newly formed Severna Park chapter of the American Association of University Women as a charter member.

"I joined for the fellowship with other women who were college graduates," said Letaw, 81, who has lived in Severna Park for 45 years. "But AAUW is more than fellowship. Our contributions make it possible for women to finish up at a regular university. We also contribute to the national fund helping women going on for their Ph.D."

Letaw, along with fellow charter members Olive Bump and Eva Gustafson, are marking the 40th anniversary of the group, the only Anne Arundel County chapter of the 125-year-old organization.

Although times have changed - women and men attend college in roughly equal numbers now - the charter members say the group promotes fellowship, supports the programs of its national organization and helps other county women attend college or continue their education.

As the group's historian, Letaw said that she keeps the history of the Severna Park group up to date, maintaining the branch scrapbooks and compiling branch records on microfilm. At that task, she said, she's "at 25 years of history and counting."

The Severna Park AAUW, whose logo reads "A powerful network of educated women," presents an annual Transfer Scholarship Award to female students who have completed two years at Anne Arundel Community College. The award helps with a student's costs for the first year at a four-year college or university. An applicant should be eligible to enter the new school as a junior.

The group's annual used book fair, held over four days in November, enables the 106-member group to contribute to the programs of its parent organization and finance its local scholarships.

Because the 2005 book sale was so successful - raising $14,000 - a gift of $8,000 was given to the national AAUW association in Washington. This year, the group will offer three transfer scholarships of $1,500 each.

"Applications are based on financial need as well as academic merit," said association member Kathy Schaivone, who is a clinical instructor at the University of Maryland and manager of the university's clinical education and evaluation lab. With no restriction on age, women who are county residents and enrolled at AACC may apply.

Students are interviewed by the scholarship committee, said Schaivone, and decisions are made in late April.

Founded in 1881, the national organization of AAUW, focuses on two things. The first is the Education Foundation, which offers scholarships, grants and fellowships to enable women to pursue higher education.

The second is the Legal Advocacy Fund, created in 1981 to support women bringing sexual discrimination lawsuits involving institutions of higher learning. Administered by the Education Foundation, the fund has contributed more than $1.3 million in funds to women seeking judicial redress, and is currently supporting 21 sexual harassment cases across the nation.

"Much as we would like to think that sex discrimination is a thing of the past," said Claire Trazenfeld, Legal Advocacy Fund chairman of the Severna Park branch, "sadly, that just isn't so, certainly not on college campuses.

"As the largest legal fund in the country focusing solely on challenging sex discrimination in higher education, LAF plays a critical role in helping women bring suits against colleges and universities that have denied them basic rights," said Trazenfeld, who is a book reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, a bimonthly periodical used by libraries.

Severna Park AAUW members also are concerned about the education of the county's youngest pupils. About 200 children's books from the used book sale are donated each year to the county's six Head Start centers.

Members volunteer to read to the children in the centers, said Jeanne Hawn, a retired middle school math teacher who is co-president of the local branch. Her co-president is Sigrid Dorf, a retired middle and high school math and German teacher.

The deadline for applying for the AACC Transfer Scholarship Award is March 30. Application forms are available by contacting Kathy Schaivone at 410-315-9662 or at

For more information about AAUW, go to To read more about the Legal Advocacy Fund, go to

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