If you take a walk through the University of Cincinnati’s campus you’ll see herds of students filing in and out of the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH) building. Decades ago, past S.T.B., S.H., and NPC Chairman Elizabeth Dyer worked in this department, when it was known as the College of Home Economics.
Elizabeth was named “instrumental in organizing the college as one of the early schools in its field,” and known for her often distinctly progressive voice on campus surrounding women’s issues. Her leadership on campus was just a window into the immense impact she’d go on to make within Chi Omega.
Life in Chi Omega
Before she became a distinguished and well-respected leader in education and the Fraternity, Elizabeth became a special initiate of Delta chapter at Dickinson College in 1922. Her neices, Margy and Betsy, were both Xi initiates and her younger sister, Frances, was a Pi Alpha initiate who preceded Elizabeth as S.T.B.
Elizabeth attended Vassar for her undergraduate work before becoming an initiate of the same chapter her future S.H. predecessor, Mary Love Collins, had been initiated into 15 years prior.
Elizabeth’s leadership in Chi Omega was described early on as an expression of “radiant personal charm and intelligence” in a 1950 issue of The Eleusis.
She would go on to serve as S.T.B. from 1936-1950 and as one of Chi Omega’s longest-serving Sisters in the role of S.H. from 1952-1970.
In a 1952 issue of The Eleusis, it stated:
“Sunday is always a historic Convention day and that continued to be true. On Sunday morning, Mary Love Collins, who now becomes Administrative Councilor, presented the gavel to Elizabeth Dyer as President. In presenting the gavel she said: ‘And now I come to a happy hour. Elizabeth Dyer meets the qualifications for the office of S.H. as defined by our laws and by traditions of Chi Omega. She was the organizer and the first Dean of the College of Home Economics, University of Cincinnati, has served on the Board of Education of the City of Cincinnati and on national committees of the American Home Economics Association… She has contributed invaluable service to Chi Omega. She has your confidence, respect, and affection.'”
And in another note in that issue, a Xi Delta delegate wrote in to share:
“Truly, the example of leadership set by such women as Mary Love Collins and Elizabeth Dyer is a challenge to each Chi Omega who had the privilege of attending the meetings. Women who believe so firmly in the purposes and policies of their organization and in the fraternity system are the leaders who will keep Chi Omega always strong. Their wisdom and foresight assure the future of our fraternity.”
During her stretch as S.H., she also served as NPC Chairman from 1963-1965, and in the midst of those terms, Elizabeth had the great fun of holding a judge’s seat at the 1964 Miss America Pageant!
Elizabeth is one of four Chi Omegas to have ever served as NPC Chairman, in company with Jobelle Holcombe, Mary Love Collins, and Jean Mrasek, who says she studied those who came before her when her time as Chairman came.
“When preparing for my role as Chairman, I poured over letters and minutes from the NPC meetings in our archives. My take-away from my research was that Elizabeth was thoughtful, diplomatic and well respected,” says Jean. “Her background in higher education was very helpful to her in her leadership position in NPC. She knew how to navigate the turbulent times of the 1960s with dignity and grace.”
Life in Education
In addition to her Chi Omega service, Elizabeth Dyer worked for women’s education, especially in the Cincinnati area.
Elizabeth was on the Board of Education of the City of Cincinnati and on national committees of the American Home Economics Association. Most notably, she was the director of Cincinnati’s School of Household Administration from 1924-40, then became dean of the College of Home Economics (now CECH) from 1940-1952.
She left her position as the University of Cincinnati college dean to serve as national president of Chi Omega from 1952-1970.
In honor of Elizabeth’s work at the University of Cincinnati, Pi Alpha collegians and alumnae gave a gift to the university to celebrate the chapter’s 100-year milestone. The Elizabeth Dyer Collaboration Space was opened in 2013 as a multi-functioning meeting and conference room to honor Elizabeth’s legacy to Chi Omega and education.
Elizabeth joined the Omega chapter in 1989, leaving behind a legacy of leading with “radiant personal charm and intelligence” in her friendships with Sisters, her work in the Fraternity, and in advancing the education experience for hundreds of students.