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  • Karen Kaplan

Summit College Club: Why Now?

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

When Tilla Thomas gathered a small group of women to form the Summit College Club in 1920, there were relatively few college-educated women in the country. In fact, there were relatively few college-educated men either – only about one per cent of the population in total. It must have been a rare pleasure to share time and views with friends who also

shared a rare privilege: higher education. Times have changed. Now, women outnumber men in both undergraduate and graduate programs in the U.S. In Summit and surrounding towns, roughly 70% of the adult population holds a four-year degree or higher. We find each other in offices and on playgrounds, at entrepreneurial workshops and on soccer sidelines

(now watching our daughters as well as our sons). Do we still need a “club” to bring

educated adults together?

Answer: Definitely. Here’s why.

First, the club was formed around, and still focuses on, the value of education. After all, “College” is our middle name. SCC is known for its annual book sale, which funds college scholarships for young women in our area. Over the years, we have awarded nearly

a million dollars in scholarship funds. That’s particularly important these days because

women currently hold roughly two-thirds of outstanding college debt in the United States. If we do nothing more than help some exceptional young women minimize or avoid the burden of educational debt, the Summit College Club is making an important contribution. And we make the necessary funds by sorting and recycling books—encouraging reading! It’s a win/win situation all round.

Of course, we do more than that. As a branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Summit College Club members contribute to advancing equity for women and girls in all sorts of ways. Just by paying our annual Club dues, each one of us helps enable AAUW’s work. We’re funding research that is exceptionally valuable to academic, political, and business organizations across the country. We’re funding program development, like Work Smart, that helps women negotiate for position, pay and

benefits. We’re funding political action, programs for women in leadership, and ongoing

awareness-raising about women’s issues and causes. Here in NJ, we contribute to the highly

successful Tech Trek program, which encourages young girls to see themselves as possible future STEM professionals. All that, with one check a year! Talk about effective!

Locally, the programs that Summit College Club supports make a difference to our community. Think of all the people who attended a lecture on a woman artist like Berthe Morisot, or a movie like The Pieces I Am, or the modified Work Smart

workshop on negotiation – and these are just one year’s programs. Think back on the programs offered in the 99 years preceding 2019! We make a difference, right

here in our area, in our celebration of lifelong learning and the exchange of ideas.

Even apart from its powerful cause, Summit College Club is relevant because of the enduring value of community. So many members value SCC because of the friends they’ve made, the events they’ve attended, the activities they’ve supported, and the acknowledgement they’ve earned from peers through their membership. Whether SCC

has brought you the pleasures of a movie and dinner out, or a regular afternoon of bridge, or a book discussion group, each of us realizes a value in being part of this community.

So, as we celebrate the past 100 years of friendship and advocacy, let’s also celebrate the present. Let’s celebrate our shared creation of purpose, contribution and friendship. Let’s celebrate the differences we make—small and large, individually and collectively.

And let’s work together to create the next 100 years for Summit College Club.

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