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Helen Blanche Schleman

Helen Blanche Schleman is, perhaps, the most remarkable woman in the history of Purdue University. She served Purdue as Director of the first women's residence hall in 1934 and, after serving in World War II, as Dean of Women from 1947 to 1968. She remained on the staff for several years to establish the "Span-Plan" program for mature students.

Helen Schleman was always ahead of her time in believing that women could do anything that men could do. She always believed this! She fought hard for equality of women throughout her lifetime - both at Purdue and beyond. She was elected President of the National Association of Women Deans, Administrators and Counselors. She served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves during World War II, attaining the rank of Captain and earning the Navy Commendation Medal. She was appointed to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services and served on President John Kennedy's Commission to write the national report, American Women.

But Helen Schleman's legacy is felt most deeply and reverently by her staff and colleagues who were honored to serve with her and by the many students she influenced. To be in the presence of this woman was to know that she respected all people, that she had faith in each individual's abilities, and that she would educate and fight, if she must, so that all have a chance to live up to their potential.

Helen B. Schleman left a generous bequest in her will to be used for Purdue University undergraduate students. A committee comprised of Dean Schleman's friends and colleagues gathered to discuss how her bequest should be used to support her special interests and causes. The Helen B. Schleman Scholarship for nontraditional students resulted from these discussions. In the 1960's Dean Schleman was concerned about the wives of college students who were not involved in the educational environment at Purdue. She observed that these women often became divorced from the college-educated spouses. In response to this, Dean Schleman founded the Span Plan Adult Student Services Program in the Office of the Dean of Students. Today, Span Plan provides services to all students who have taken a nontraditional path to higher education. It is fitting that Helen B. Schleman's bequest be used to encourage nontraditional students by providing scholarship money for an undergraduate education.

To read more about Helen B. Schleman, click here.