Introducing the Distinguished Service Award

Although Cap and Gown is almost 110 years old, we still create new traditions as we grow and change. As stated in our by-laws, “The purpose of this organization shall be to honor and bring together women who have been constructively active in student affairs and the community so that as a group they may meet to maintain and serve the ideals of Stanford University.” This purpose guides our Actives as they select new members from the junior and senior classes each year. And, we know that we are exceptionally good at finding women who are active in service to Stanford and its ideals. How? Because we find Cap and Gown women involved in all types of organizations at Stanford and they are frequently recognized for their ongoing service to the University.

This year, the Nominating and Executive Committees created a new Cap and Gown Distinguished Service Award to recognize members of Cap and Gown whose service not only fulfills Cap and Gown’s purpose but whose service also sustains Cap and Gown’s penultimate function: “To provide desired continuity to Cap and Gown and Stanford traditions; and to act as a bond between the classes of the past and present, enabling each to share the ideas and Interests of the other and to cooperate to achieve common goals.”

At our Spring Brunch this year, we were delighted to honor two amazing women and awarded the first two Distinguished Service Awards to Jean Coblentz ’47 and Ellie Mansfield ’58, ’60.

Jean Galt Coblentz 

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Jean Coblentz has often referred to herself as a “little old lady in tennis shoes.” That speaks more to the ground she covers as a volunteer than to her actual footwear (red and white heels on at Spring Brunch). Jean is the daughter of missionaries and spent several years of her childhood in China. She attended Stanford University, where she majored in social sciences and minored in psychology. She went on to work at Hewlett-Packard and later as a development officer at Stanford for 27 years.

Jean has been a life-long volunteer starting with being active in the PTA and scouting troops for boys and girls. For more than 50 years, she has volunteered with the Menlo-Atherton Auxiliary and as part of the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary which both support the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. She has served as the Chair for Allied Arts three times as president. In 2012, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Avenidas “for being a shining example of the valuable and positive impact of actively volunteering in one’s community.” She also served two terms on Associates of Stanford Libraries. She served many years with the Stanford Associates and is now an Honorary Governor.

Jean’s work with Cap and Gown has been invaluable in sustaining the organization. Jean cofounded the Cap and Gown Alumnae Board in 1953. A 1953 Alumnae Board roster, typed on “onion skin” paper, has a handwritten notation that Jean was responsible for “Calendar Sales” – the primary method for raising Cap and Gown scholarship funds for many years. Jean served twice as the Alumnae Board Chairwoman from 1974-77 and again from 1980-84.

There are two other events in 1989 and 2005 in which Jean played a critical role. In October of 1989, Jean sent a newsletter plea to all Cap and Gown alumnae. Jean wrote, “It seems clear to us that if something dynamic does not occur this year involving a whole new generation of alumnae members, Cap and Gown will cease to exist as an organization honoring Stanford women who have made leadership contributions to the University.” Jean summoned 450 Cap and Gown alumnae from the Bay Area to figure out how to revitalize the organization. For those who read our newsletter or follow us online, you know that we have expanded our outreach to Actives, to the community of women at Stanford, to our alumnae, and to the university.

After re-energizing the organization, Jean began to champion the idea of celebrating Cap and Gown’s first 100 years! From 2000-2005, Jean chaired the team planning Cap and Gown’s Centennial celebration. Cap and Gown held an entire day of women speakers. We wrapped up our Celebration with a gala dinner featuring a keynote address by Cap and Gown member, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. And now, Jean has already been reminding us to celebrate 110 years in 2015!

Jean has always seized on opportunities to serve Cap and Gown and Stanford and we are all richer for her service.  We thanked Jean by presenting a necklace including the Cap & Gown charm and a gavel for the many years she led the organization.

Elinor Weiss Mansfield

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Ellie Mansfield graduated from Stanford in ’58 (AB Economics) and 1960 LLB Law. Ellie worked at Sempervirens Fund for many years. She is a lifelong volunteer in the community including Palo Alto Stanford Heritage, American Association of University Women, and serving on the Board of Avenidas. Ellie is well known in the Stanford and Palo Alto communities for opening her home to any organization that needed a place to meet, or an active or alumnae who needed a place to stay. She also publishes a class book for Stanford Law School reunions and often hosts reunion-related events.

Ellie has been active in service to Cap and Gown for more than 50 years. Her name first appears in the Alumnae Board minutes for 1965-66 as responsible for “records, secretary, and files.” She has never given that job up! She chaired the board in 1966. In 1974, efforts were made to recruit her back to the Alumnae Board, but a handwritten note states that she was “unavailable because of full-time work, part-time employment, and other involvements with community activities.” In other words, she was busy serving others.

In 1984-85, the Alumnae Board struck gold when they recruited Ellie back and the minutes state that “Ellie=Newsletter.” Indeed, Ellie would “equal” the written history of Cap and Gown for the next 30 years. Each year, she has produced an amazing newsletter to share with our more than 2,000 alumnae around the world. If you look, there is no “editor’s box” – just her humble service to ensure that the many generations of Cap and Gown women are connected to our current Actives, other alumnae and to Stanford University. She also helped with publications including the Cap and Gown History Booklet, special Centennial publications, and our Tapping Tea Programs.

In addition to her amazing ability to keep our Actives and Alumnae informed, one of Cap and Gown’s “newest” traditions began at Ellie’s home. Following our Centennial, we created a “Graduation Tea,” to invite our Actives and their families to meet other Cap and Gown Actives and Alumnae. For eight years, Ellie hosted this event at her home each June and many of our newest Alumnae members and their families have enjoyed a quiet respite from the energy of Graduation weekend to meet the Cap and Gown women sharing the journey with their daughters, sisters, and grand-daughters. Indeed, one year Ellie agreed to host the Graduation Tea but had to leave before it concluded for a flight to France where she and her husband were to take a bike tour. She simply handed over her keys and told us to enjoy!

It should be no surprise that Ellie’s home also hosted the 1989 meeting to revitalize Cap and Gown! Ellie also shared her beautiful garden with us, providing many of the centerpieces at Cap and Gown events through the years.

We thanked Ellie with a necklace including the Cap and Gown charm and a special locket with a picture of the latest Cap and Gown newsletter and a picture of Ellie and Dick Mansfield delivering camellias for centerpieces at a Cap and Gown event.