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Brilliant women of BW

It goes without saying that many brilliant and amazing women attended Baldwin Wallace University over the years, including BW's first-ever graduate, Maria Myra Poe. However, good friends Mildred "Bobbie" Cooley '42 and Margaret "Peggy Jo" Carpenter '41 stand out as trailblazers.

Carpenter and Cooley met at BW and became good friends as well as classmates. Carpenter's daughter, Penny Jones, described the two as "kindred spirits" who went on from BW to lead incredibly full and fascinating lives.

Cooley Volunteers around World

Cooley was born in Dover, Ohio, on October 23, 1920, and lived a full 100 years until her passing in December 2020.

Cooley graduated from BW with a bachelor's degree in sociology and much later added a master's degree in social work from the National Catholic School of Social Service. Cooley always kept her pride in BW, as she had the college initials put up on a wall in her home.

During World War II, Cooley worked in social services and tested parts for B-24 airplanes before spending seven years with the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. "She could tear apart a car and put it back together again; she could do anything," says her nephew Jeff Chase.

During the Korean War, she worked in multiple military hospitals in Japan and Korea, helping all sorts of people. "She was a special woman and frequently talked about her recollection of her times at the Red Cross. She shared those stories that you didn't hear about in the newspapers," says Chase.

In an interview with nj.com in 2020, Cooley had this to say about joining the Red Cross and heading off across the world, "You got caught up in the events you saw, everything that's going on in the world, and you wanted to be a part of it. I thought, I can't stay home picking grapes and peaches all my life, so I joined the Red Cross."

Cooley's other nephew Fred Mingo notes, "She had so many restrictions being a woman at the time that she overcame or did the best she could to work with in order to help people as much as she could."

Mingo also says, "She was not afraid to do anything, she tried so many new things all the time, she was not shy about rolling up her sleeves and doing the dirty work because she knew it had to be done."

Cooley remembered her time abroad as "a fantastic time," but added with a laugh, "then I was young enough that I could do all that stuff."

In 1955, Cooley moved to New Jersey and spent the next 25 years working for several correctional facilities until she retired and settled down in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. Every summer, her niece Kathy Swartz would visit with her friends. Swartz recalls, "She was beyond a doubt one of the most amazing people you could meet, and she treated everyone so special."

Cooley was an adventurer who visited most of the continents, as well as an incredibly charitable person who gave generously to many organizations involved with women's rights, wildlife and the environment.

"My aunt is an amazing woman," said Mingo, "She was an inspiration to me and many others, something I saw and appreciated even more as I grew up and had children of my own. I love listening to her stories, especially about her many worldly travels and how she fearlessly went about meeting others and learning about their lives."

Carpenter Takes Flight

Photo of Margaret "Peggy Jo" CarpenterCarpenter was born on March 11, 1920, in Elgin, Illinois, and passed on two weeks before what would have been her 100th birthday. Carpenter graduated from BW magna cum laude, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in German. BW actually runs in the Carpenter family, as her great aunt Ruth Brockett Baur was dean of women, and her great uncle Arthur Breslich was a president of Baldwin Wallace.

While at BW, Carpenter participated in many theatrical projects and was elected as the May Queen - May Day was the precursor to today's April Reign tradition. But the May Queen had a fearless side. In 1940, Carpenter earned her pilot's license as the only woman among a group of men who attended a U.S. Civil Aeronautics Authority-sponsored aeronautics class. She was known as "The Lone Eagle."

In one of their last conversations, Jones asked her mother, "What made you want to take flying lessons?" She answered, "I'm really embarrassed to say this, but when I learned that there was gonna be a class, and only one female student would be allowed, I knew then and there that student had to be me."

After flight school, Carpenter settled down in Lexington, Ohio, where she began volunteering as a Girl Scout leader and member of the Lexington Mother's club. In 1954, she became an elementary school teacher, and teaching would take up the next 32 years of her life, with her adding a second bachelor's degree in elementary education.

Jones says her mother was "very humble, smart, talented, hardworking and a wonderful teacher, yet she had trouble accepting praise." She worked with fourth and sixth graders then became interim principal before her election as president of the local teacher's association. She was also active in Delta Gamma Society, an honor society for women educators.

Carpenter spent her last few years in Lexington at Primrose Retirement Facility. Even in the later years of her life, Jones says, "Her mind was a steel trap with an extraordinary memory."

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