Preparing young women

For young women in high school who are considering a college education at The Ohio State University, anxiety about such a life-changing event — whether it’s the application process, life after high school or the thought of fitting in — can seem overwhelming. For potential first-generation college students and students from smaller communities throughout Ohio, those anxieties can be even more profound.

Helping young women address their concerns about college, providing them an overview of life at Ohio State, and educating them about careers in business are central themes of the Mary Helen Wolfe Chandler Future Women in Business Summit at Fisher College of Business.

Named for Mary Helen Wolfe Chandler, the college’s first recorded female graduate, the summit provides high-school-aged young women from across Ohio a unique opportunity to gain insight into the college-application process. Additionally, it allows them to interact with Fisher faculty and staff members in a welcoming environment and to hear from a variety of guest speakers from the business community.

“The caliber of guest speakers who have presented during the first two Future Women in Business Summits has been fantastic,” said Samantha Reed, assistant director of admissions & recruitment at Fisher. “We invite women who are successful in business — many of whom are Fisher graduates —to campus and speak at the event. Those speakers really tie the summit together by helping young women see themselves as future business leaders.”

A native of Carrollton, a small rural community in northeast Ohio, Reed understands what many first-generation college students experience.

“I’m a first-generation college student, so I’ve always had a passion for working with other first-generation students and helping them navigate the college-search process.”

Apply to the 2019 Future Women in Business Summit

Andrea Ott, a first-year marketing student from New Knoxville, Ohio, attended the inaugural summit in 2017 as a rising high school senior. Although she was already considering applying to Ohio State, the experience solidified her choice to major in business.

Andrea Ott
Andrea Ott

She recalls feeling nervous about the college-application process, but attending the summit helped her connect to Ohio State and Fisher.

“As a first-generation college student, I didn’t have much advice or guidance through the application process, so it was a bit daunting,” Ott said. “The summit showed me how much support Fisher and Ohio State have to offer.”

“Now that I’m a student, I still feel that connection any time I need help or resources during the semester.”

Part of Ott’s connection to Fisher occurred in the form of the fast friendships she developed with other attendees, many of which have continued as they’ve transitioned from high school students to members of the Fisher community. One connection in particular was with Celia Soller, a first-year student from Marysville who is pursuing a dual major in marketing and communication. Ott and Soller are in The Ohio State Scholars Program together — and they’re even planning on rooming together during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Soller’s experience attending the summit was similar to Ott’s, but having had two older siblings who attended college — including one who attended Ohio State — in addition to two parents who earned bachelor’s degrees from the university, she admits she had an advantage over some of her peers.

Celia Soller
Celia Soller

One of takeaways from her summit experience was learning the importance of being assured with her identity and advocating for herself. The summit also provided other practical skills that continue to add value to her Fisher and Ohio State experiences.

“The True Colors Personality test we completed was very insightful into how different personality strengths work together,” Soller said. “This understanding has helped me tremendously at Ohio State in various student organizations and group projects.”

For Ott and Soller, the summit influenced their decisions to apply to Ohio State.

“I was already planning on applying, but meeting with faculty and potential classmates cemented my decision,” Soller said. “The summit showcased how I could grow here at Ohio State with development opportunities in leadership, professionalism and relationship building.”

For Ott, the summit provided a “sneak peek into life at Fisher and some of the buildings and staff I would see if I came here.”

Soller recommends that young women in high school who are considering college attend the summit because of what it taught her about navigating college applications. Additionally, she appreciates the valuable insights she gained into the world of business from Fisher alumnae such as Natalie Siston (BA ’02, MBA ’08), who spoke at the 2018 Future Women in Business Summit.

Natalie Siston
Natalie Siston (BA ’02, MBA ’08)

Siston, director of sales coaching and development at Nationwide and founder of Small Town Leadership, recalls the challenge of transitioning to the Columbus campus from a small town. She grew up in Republic, a rural farming community of approximately 600 people in northwest Ohio. Reflecting on her own transition to the university, she recalls the “huge difference” from her hometown to Ohio State, but she found the experience to be an exciting change.

“During high school, I took advantage of trips sponsored by local community groups, 4-H and the Rural Electric Cooperative to areas all over the country,” she said. “Those trips — and the people I met on them — prepared me well for coming to Ohio State. At the end of my time as an undergraduate, I couldn’t pass through campus without running into someone I knew.”

And that small-town perspective made Siston a natural fit as a speaker at the event.

“I knew that I had a message to share with young women who were considering attending Ohio State, but who were also unsure of what that could mean for them.”

Siston’s presentation covered two topics: “What’s Your Possible?” and “Lenses and Labels: Are you who they say you are?” in which she discussed unconscious bias. In addition to her presentation, she had the opportunity to interact with the summit’s attendees.

“These young women were great. They have seen the world at a very unique point in time,” she said. “They are clear on their values, they understand the great problems in the world, and they have the compassion and drive to help solve them.”

About Mary Helen Wolfe Chandler

Mary Helen Wolfe Chandler

Earning a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business is a significant accomplishment, and truly one of life’s milestones. 

Completing that milestone in 1919 was even more significant, given that a college education wasn’t as accessible then as it is today. But a young woman earning a business degree in 1919 was a true breakthrough. Mary Helen Wolfe Chandler broke through that year, earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration, just three years after the college’s founding. 

Born in 1898 to Joseph and Flora Purdy Wolfe, Mary grew up on a farm in Mercer County, Ohio, and attended a one-room schoolhouse through eighth grade. For high school, she traveled by horse and buggy to attend classes in Rockford, Ohio, until the family moved to town, which delighted Mary because it put school within walking distance.

Mary Helen Wolfe ChandlerThroughout Mary’s childhood, education was valued and encouraged for her and her three sisters. Although he didn’t attend college himself, Joseph Wolfe primarily worked as a farmer but also found employment as a penman, hand-lettering certificates and other important documents, and he wanted his daughters to experience the value of a college education. Mary and two of her sisters earned their degrees, and Maude, the second Wolfe daughter, married a farmer and did not attend college. 

Throughout elementary school and high school, Mary excelled in math, and when the time came to begin college, she chose The Ohio State University. At barely 5 feet tall and shy by nature, Mary, like many of today’s incoming freshmen, found campus to be a rather large, intimidating place — a sharp contrast to her small-town experience. But Mary quickly adapted to her new environment, living off campus in Columbus with relatives to help reduce costs, and throwing herself in to her studies at what was then known as the College of Commerce and Journalism.  

In selecting her major, Mary took a different academic path from her older sister, Mabel, and her younger sister, Marjorie. Mabel attended Wooster College and majored in education, eventually becoming a teacher in Rockford, the family’s home town. Marjorie attended Miami University (Ohio) and also studied education. Mary’s decision to major in the typically male-dominated business administration program also bucked a broader trend of many other young women of her day who often chose to major in education.

During her time at the college, Mary met fellow business major Willis Chandler, who left Ohio State in 1918, prior to completing his studies to join the United States Air Force. The couple married in 1920 and Willis would later attend law school in the evenings, never completing his degree, but he spent his career working in business. 

After earning her bachelor’s degree and marrying Willis, Mary became a homemaker, focusing her attention on the couple’s three children: Bob, born in 1921; Barbara, born in 1925; and Marilyn, born in 1926. 

The family moved around frequently as the children were growing up, living in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and mostly in Cleveland. Later, Mary and Willis would move to Florida, where they stayed until 1976 when Willis died. That same year, Mary moved to Michigan to be closer daughter Marilyn and her husband.

Although Mary never worked outside the home, she was very proud of her Ohio State degree and always stressed the importance of education for all members of her family, said Mary’s daughter Marilyn Chandler Brown. She was an avid reader and maintained an interest in current affairs, and she was a frequent player of the card game bridge. Throughout her adult life, Mary used her math and business skills to manage the family’s bookkeeping. 

Despite her petite stature and shy nature, Mary stuck to her convictions. She often would tell her children about an experience she had as a student with an Ohio State mathematics professor. 

Mary had been taking calculus and was doing very well in the course. When the course ended, Mary believed she deserved an A, given her strong performance throughout the term. However, the professor apparently felt differently, awarding Mary a B. When she questioned the professor about the lower grade, he quipped that he’d run out As by the time he got to Mary’s name on the class roster. Years later, Mary still held firm in her belief that she deserved the higher grade.

Mary passed away in 1989, just a few months shy of her 91st birthday.

Mary and Willis Chandler are survived by two of their three children, Bob and Marilyn, along with nine grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. Mary's legacy lives on in the name of her great-granddaughter, Helen Wolfe Chandler.