Susannah Chamberlain Cole helped build Buchtel College (now The University of Akron) as a student, alum and teacher.
Born in Cuyahoga Falls, Susannah Chamberlain was the daughter of Charles W. and Sarah Chamberlain. Her father was superintendent of the Akron Division of the C. A. & C. Railroad. She entered Buchtel College on the first day it opened and was a member of its first graduating class. As a student, she founded the Carey Literary Society, a group that studied women writers, and became its first president.
After she graduated, she worked for a time on the staff of the Daily Argus and The Sunday Gazette. At the time, newspaper work was not considered an “acceptable” career choice for women so Chamberlain also taught English and Rhetoric at Buchtel College from 1873-1887. One of her students John Botzum, who went on to his own successful career as a writer, remembered her as a “brilliant and good woman” who helped to mold his career. She, in turn, referred to her students as “her boys and girls.”
Chamberlain ended her teaching career, like most women of the time, when she married in 1887. She married Frank F. Cole, a Michigan newspaperman.
Cole was active in various women’s organizations in the city, especially the North Hill Literary Club and the Fifty Year Club, which she help found. She also maintained close ties to her alma mater, frequently writing for its alumni magazine on the early days of Buchtel College.
When she died on April 1, 1929 in Akron at the home of her daughter, the Beacon Journal remembered her as “one of Buchtel College’s most prominent alumnae” and the Rev. Spanton called her “one of the outstanding characters of early Akron.” With her death, a chapter in Buchtel College history had ended.
Photos courtesy of The University of Akron Archives.
–Kathleen L. Endres