Daughters of Demeter celebrate 100

In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over the fertility of the earth. And in that spirit, members of a century-old nonprofit called Daughters of Demeter perform community service and award scholarships and grants to CALS students to ensure that agriculture and the college remain strong.

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The Daughters of Demeter group helps plant more than 1,500 bulbs at Allen Centennial Garden each fall.

Daughters of Demeter was formed in 1917 by a group of women whose spouses were faculty in CALS. Since then, the organization has expanded its membership to welcome all faculty, staff and friends of the college and recently invited its first male member. The group now has some 120 members and hopes to increase membership during its centennial year, an event kicked off in September at the annual Corn Roast.

A Daughters of Demeter loan fund was established in 1944 with a $25 gift; soon after, the group was able to establish a scholarship fund. Student scholarship support has grown significantly over the years, and, in the last decade, the organization has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships and grants to CALS students and student organizations.

“The Daughters of Demeter are consistently one of the most generous annual donors to CALS scholarship funds, and a subgroup has sewn thousands of hats and scarves annually donated to the University of Wisconsin cancer patients,” notes Daughters of Demeter president Liz Henry BS’83, an emeritus CALS academic staff member.

Every member has different reasons for finding membership meaningful and the ways that each member is involved vary, says Henry. “Members can join and be as involved as they choose and are not held to any more or less involvement than they are comfortable with.”

Janice Martin has been a member since 1983, became president in 1988, and has since chaired numerous committees, including the Annual Corn Roast Committee. She currently chairs a bulb planting committee that plants more than 1,500 bulbs at Allen Centennial Garden each fall.

“I find the friendship and camaraderie in this organization, from working on committees to sewing cancer scarves once a month, to be a very important part of my life while serving UW–Madison,” says Martin, whose husband, A. Jeff Martin, is an emeritus professor of forest and wildlife ecology. “These members are a dedicated group, very generous in giving to our scholarships and grants, very dependable and willing to help when needed to provide the students in CALS with funds to continue their education.  We also have a good time!”

Centennial events this spring include the Annual Meeting and Spring Luncheon on Wednesday, April 12 at Blackhawk Country Club (featuring CALS emeritus biochemistry professor David Nelson speaking on CALS history) and a Centennial Gala on Thursday, May 18 at Allen Centennial Garden.

You can find more information about upcoming events on the group’s Facebook page, http://go.wisc.edu/fb_daughters_of_demeter.