Celebrating a Century of Women's Leadership

Two-hundred Wheel and Chain alumnae and students gathered on campus in April to celebrate the society's centennial. Photo by Riley Heffron '26.

Wheel and Chain alumnae and students gathered on campus in April to celebrate the society's centennial. Photo by Riley Heffron '26.

Anniversary weekend highlights deep connections, successful year

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Progress was in the air when the Wheel and Chain honorary society was founded. The Nineteenth Amendment was just three years young, and the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment was still new. While Dickinson women students resided in Metzger Hall; six blocks from campus, their influence, inside and outside of class, was growing, and they were eager to deepen their contributions to campus and community life.

Since 1924, Wheel and Chain has recognized and brought together women students of exceptional character and leadership. One-hundred years later, the organization’s distinctive blue hats dotted the campus as 200 alumnae and current students, representing six class-year decades, marked the centennial, honored traditions and affirmed Wheel and Chain’s ongoing mission and work.

“Everywhere I turned, I saw a familiar face,” says Anna Marks Crouch ‘09, who flew in from Texas for the occasion.

The weekend kicked into gear Friday, April 19, with a reception in the John M. Paz '78 Alumni & Family Center attended by President John E. Jones ’77, P’11. After Saturday’s breakfast, the Wheel and Chain members, known as “blue hats,” processed across campus in honor of early Dickinson women. During the 2024 “tapping” ceremony that followed, a member of the class of 2026 was presented with the Wheel and Chain Leadership Award. Nearly 200 Wheel and Chain members contributed gifts toward the leadership award, and an additional 100 gave toward another Dickinson fund. This successful participation rate unlocked a $25K challenge gift toward the award. (Giving during the 2023-24 fiscal year for Wheel and Chain members added up to more than $188K).

Participants discussed Wheel and Chain history and traditions during a Saturday luncheon and throughout the weekend and spoke about women’s leadership and philanthropy more generally. Saturday also saw tours of the campus, downtown Carlisle and the College Farm. Alumnae attended an afternoon plaque dedication honoring a century of service and support, shared Wheel and Chain stories over dinner and closed the weekend with donut decorating—a new group tradition—and a song-filled Sunday breakfast.

None of it would have been possible without the 31 alumnae and student volunteers who worked with Dickinson staff members to plan and organize the event, says Liz Toth, director of alumni relations. “The volunteers worked very hard throughout the year to make this a special event, and they also were able to achieve amazing fundraising success,” she said. “Their leadership and dedication mean so much to the college and to the generations of women who attended. Many ‘blue hats’ have since told us how meaningful the weekend was to them.”

These included Crouch, who’s volunteered for several Wheel and Chain gatherings over the years and was part of the planning committee for the recent event.

“Being a member of Wheel and Chain has proven to be more impactful and meaningful for me than I could have imagined,” says Crouch. “The power of this network is so strong, and all of the women involved are dynamic leaders in their own way.”


Published May 8, 2024