Senior Forum was organized in January 1941 for those persons in Junior Forum, established 1935, recently made ineligible for membership when a new constitution set an upper age limit of 35 years. Members of Junior Forum and others in Oberlin, who participated in organizing the new group, became charter members of Senior Forum. There were 32 charter members in Senior Forum in 1941-42. Subsequently, individual membership was granted by invitation of the Executive Board and by unanimous vote of the total group. Active membership was initially set at thirty-five members, but later expanded to forty. Membership categories included active, associate, and absent. The absent membership category was eventually discontinued. The 1941-42 annual dues rates were $1.50 for active members, $2.50 for associate members, and $1.00 for absent members.
The officers of Senior Forum included the President, Vice-President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, Treasurer, Auditor, and the Parliamentarian. The committees included Program, Social, Ways and Means, with the Budget Committee added at a later date. The 1995-96 Program Booklet listed the Charity Committee but not the Ways and Means Committee. The Executive Board consisted of officers and the chairpersons of each standing committee.
Early in the club's history meetings were held twice a month at members’ homes. A meal was served and members presented two programs. Occasionally, guest speakers, including local business people, Oberlin College faculty, and recipients of the Forum’s charitable funds, augmented the programs. The entire membership was involved in some aspect of committee work. The Ways and Means Committee was the most interesting and vital. It was responsible for sustaining the Senior Forums' commitment to charitable causes in Oberlin; during World War II, for example, the Forum provided aid to Oberlin draftees’ families, conducted blood donation drives, participated in Red Cross activities, supported war bonds, and aided other home front needs as they arose.
After 1945 the Forum shifted its efforts. Members committed time and resources to the Oberlin Girl Scouts, The Children's Home, the TB and Heart Associations, the Allen Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, and local nursery schools. Along with other organizations, they participated in clothing drives for needy Oberlin families, among other things. In the 1950s programs reflected the members growing interests in international affairs; charitable activities included support for foreign student exchange programs at Oberlin Senior High School and for non-Oberlin charities, such as the March of Dimes and the Heart Association.
In the 1950s, the membership adopted significant changes that altered the Senior Forum. In October 1955 it withdrew its membership from the Federation of Women's Clubs due to increased dues and a lack of commitment by the Forum to the Federation's programs. The membership agreed to shift the dues money to the charitable fund to be distributed to programs; for example, United Appeal, Foreign Student Exchange, and the Hospital Auxiliary. In 1956-57 the members voted to focus on one moneymaking project per year (rummage sale) and to give a total of $100 to those charities who make requests for donations.
By the 1960s the Executive Board began to show concern with frequent absences at meetings and the difficulty of finding new members. Discussions focused on the interests of the membership and the diminishing numbers of individuals on the membership waiting lists. The Executive Board, with approval from the membership, took action in order to encourage better attendance at meetings and improve its financial status. The Board changed meetings to monthly events, increased dues ($6.00 regular membership), implemented a system to notify absent members about their responsibility to attend meetings, and introduced silent donations as a source of charitable giving to supplement the funds received by the rummage sale. The group and individual members continued to support local causes (Dollars for Scholars, Head Start, Bus Fund, O.H.I.O., etc.).
The 1970s mirrored the 1960s as the Forum continued to struggle with fiscal concerns and membership involvement. Despite a small charitable fund (no more than $300), the Forum continued to stretch its resources to aid needy groups. Appeals for help came from the Senior Citizens' Mini-Bus Program, the Early Childhood Center, and the OHS Drama Program. When the bake sales, rummage sale, and member auction failed to produce sufficient funds, the membership was encouraged to contribute by silent offerings.
Because the membership continued to shrink, the Executive Board decided in 1988 to raise dues again ($10.00 regular membership) rather than do projects. This decision singularly admitted that the Senior Forum was no longer a working club it set out to be in decades before. In 1992 meetings were changed to the afternoon with no meals served and only one speaker, usually a guest. In 1995-96 the membership stood at 26, with six associate members. Throughout its history the Forum had maintained an active membership at or near forty, occasionally losing a member through resignation.
The membership in Senior Forum was drawn primarily from the Oberlin Community other than the College faculty. In 1991 several members of the group listed were direct descendants of those involved in early Oberlin businesses and professors — Madge Shepard, Millie Arthrell, Lillian Hobbs, Jeanette, Sylvia & Marian Comings, Libby Cochrane, Martha Gibson, Peg Rowe, Jean Broadwell, Florence Van Ausdale, Marge Lyman, Marian Kelly, Estelle Siddall, Jean Stephens, Jane Piraino, and Pauline Phipps.
The group celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1991. Senior Forum's history was marked by declining attendance at meetings, limited resources, and a decreased number of individuals interested in joining the group. Despite these setbacks, the group managed to provide educational and social events for its members and charitable giving to the needy of the community. An Oberlin News-Tribune article, September 24, 1991, summed up the first fifty years of the Senior Forum, "Its purposes still remain, ... general culture, mutual helpfulness, and the promotion of the welfare of the community."
Senior Forum disbanded in 2001, after sixty years. Their final meeting on November 12, 2001, was attended by twelve members, including three charter members—Dorothy Smith, Jeannette Comings, and Cay Totzke. (see ONT, Dec. 18, 2001)
(Note--As of 1999, the existing membership decided to disband in the year 2000, unless some group of seniors from Kendal or others decide to take it over.)
SENIOR FORUM PAST PRESIDENTS—1941-1999
Miss Grace Hageman 1941-42
Mrs. Donald Leahy 1942-43
Mrs. Kenneth Williams 1943-44
Miss Betty Martin 1944-45
Mrs. Fred Comings (Jeannette) 1945-46
Mrs. A. Clair Siddal (Estelle) 1946-47
Mrs. Lea Comings (Sylvia) 1947-48
Mrs. Margaret West 1948-49
Mrs. Anthony Piraino (Jane) 1949-50
Miss Dorothy Smith 1950-51
Mrs. Ray Phipps (Pauline) 1951-52
Mrs. James Stephens (Jean) 1952-53
Mrs. John Cochrane (LIbby) 1953-54
Mrs. Lee Rowe 1954-55
Mrs. Maynard Davidson (Sally) 1955-56
Mrs. L. B. Stephan (Dorothy 1956-57
Mrs. Homer Blanchard 1957-58
Mrs. Tom Piraino (Peg) 1958-59
Mrs. Robert Fauver (Jane) 1959-60
Mrs. Madge Shepard 1960-61
Mrs. C. J. Cooley (Ellie) 1961-62
Mrs. Robert Singleton (Wanda) 1962-63
Mrs. Grover Severs (Carol) 1963-64
Mrs. William Schroeder 1964-65
Mrs. Karl Aughenbaugh (Mary Edith) 1965-66
Mrs. Arthur Cotton (Mable) 1966-67
Mrs. John Popovich (Marianne) 1967-68
Mrs. John Warner (Polly) 1968-69
Mrs. Grace Harlow 1969-70
Mrs. Margaret West 1970-71
Mrs. George Scott (Elsie) 1971-72
Mrs. Kenneth Woolfe 1972-73
Mrs. Lawrence Meredith (Marian) 1973-74
Mrs. Ray Phipps (Pauline) 1974-75
Mrs. Gordon Comings (Marion) 1974-77
Mrs. Fred Comings (Jeannette) 1977-78
Mrs. Lea Comings (Sylvia) 1978-79
Mrs. William Close (Nancy) 1979-80
Mrs. Dudley Wood (Mary Jane) 1980-81
Miss Jean Wright 1981-82
Mrs. Ralph Fletcher 1982-83
Mrs. Don Mittleman (Dee) 1983-84
Mrs. Thomas Piraino (Peg) 1984-85
Mrs. Marion B. Kelly 1985-86
Mrs. Stewart Fairchild (Ginny) 1986-87
Mrs. Harold Gibson (Marty) 1987-88
Mrs. Walter Wood (Lee) 1988-89
Mrs. Howard Broadwell (Jean) 1989-90
Mrs. Stephen Johnson (Helen) 1990-91
Mrs. William Koeblitz (Dorothy) 1991-92
Mrs. Glenn Hobbs, Jr. (Lillian) 1992-93
Mrs. George Arthrell (Millie) 1993-94
Miss Jean Wright 1994-95
Mrs. Jean Broadwell 1995-97
Mrs. Ruth Brown 1997-99Author: Archives staff
Series I. Constitutions
Constitutions, 1946, 1953, 1962, 1973, 1981, 1995
Series II. Rolls, Minutes, and Annual Reports
Box 1 (cont.)
Rolls, Minutes and Annual Reports, 1940-1968, 1970-1975/76 (11f)
[Notes: These records were all received housed together in binders and notebooks. They have been retained as received.]
Historical file, 1976
Rolls, Minutes and Annual Reports, 1976/77 - 1993/94 (4f)
Rolls, Minutes and Annual Reports 1994-2001 (2f)
Series III. Treasurer's Reports
Box 2 (cont.)
Charity Donations for 1997-98, compiled 2 January 1999
Treasurer's Reports, 1963-68
Series IV. Program Booklets
Program Booklets 1941/42-200/01 (5f)