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A sisterhood for education

Philanthropic Educational Organization: Women helping women

Posted: June 27, 2008 3:31 a.m.
Updated: August 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Philanthropic Educational Organization members, from left: Doris Lauffer, Kathleen Gill, Anita Seibert, Carolyn Ritchie, Nancy Coulter, Layne Bresee, and Kay Moioffer.

Amid the plethora of charitable groups gracing this community, Philanthropic Educational Organization may be a not-so-familiar name.

But ask Nancy Coulter, the local chapter's newly installed 2008-2009 president, and she'll tell you that everyone should know what PEO is about.

"The PEO sisterhood is women helping women reach for the stars," Coulter said. "I have seen the efforts of our organization helping women realize their potential by attaining their goal of a better life through education."

Having begun in 1869 as a college sorority on the Iowa Wesleyan campus, PEO has become an international women's organization with a tradition of friendship that spans nearly 140 years.

Today, it has grown to almost a quarter of a million members in chapters throughout the United States and Canada, with headquarters in Des Moines. Each chapter strives to help women of every background and circumstance receive an education and improve their lives.

"Education in any area improves the mind and provides opportunity for growth and advancement," Coulter said. "Our mission statement takes that a step further by helping women reach their highest aspirations through education."

Coulter, a Canyon Country resident who is also an American Cancer Society SCV Unit volunteer and past president, credits her mother for giving her a love for PEO.

"I've been a member of PEO for 40 years, my sister, who lives in Reno, is a 42-year member, and our mom was a member for 55 years before she passed away," Coulter said. "Mother believed that and taught my sister and I to give back to the community in thanks for all that we were blessed with in this world."

Coulter represented Chapter EV, Santa Clarita Valley, at the Los Angeles-held 2008 California State PEO convention in May, one of 554 delegates at the three-day event.

"There are currently 559 PEO chapters in California which send representatives to meet yearly and conduct state chapter business, share ideas and renew commitments to the ideals PEO stands for and honors," Coulter said, adding, "Being a part of this experience is a wonderful feeling."

In addition to newly-sworn-in president Coulter, SCV PEO chapter officers for 2008-2009 include: vice president, Layne Bresee; recording secretary, Kay Moioffer; corresponding secretary, Carolyn Ritchie; treasurer, Kathleen Gill; Chaplain, Anita Seibert; Guard, Sylvia Reyes.

The ABCs of PEO
Friendship is the cornerstone of PEO - as is encouragement and support for women to realize their potential in whatever worthwhile endeavor they choose.

True to its mission, education continues to be the primary philanthropy of the PEO sisterhood. That far-reaching group also sponsors international philanthropies, or projects, designed to assist women with their educational goals. As a result, PEO is changing the lives of women globally. Nearly 77,800 women have benefited from educational grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College (in Missouri). To date, the organization has awarded Educational Loan Fund dollars totaling $117 million, International Peace Scholarships are $22 million, Program for Continuing Education grants are $30 million and Scholar Awards are $10 million. In addition, approximately 8,000 women have graduated from Cottey College.

A two-year, independent, liberal arts and sciences college for women, by women, and about women, Cottey College's campus has 350 students from about 40 states and 15 foreign countries.

Cottey is designed as a transfer institution with 95 percent of graduates transferring to four-year colleges and universities throughout the United States and abroad, including Smith College, University of Washington, Pepperdine University, Mount Holyoke College and others.

In 1884, Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard founded the college with the firm belief that women deserved the same quality education as men. When she became a member of the PEO Sisterhood, Cottey Stockard realized that it paralleled her own goals and ideas about higher education for women. In 1927, the PEO Sisterhood accepted Cottey College as a gift from Cottey Stockard. This made Cottey the only nonsectarian college owned and supported by women.

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