Her mere titles belie the wide, encompassing
role of Katharine Cooper Cater during her 34 years at Auburn University. As
Dean of Women and Social Director, and later as Dean of Student Life, she has
influenced the personal and professional development of more than half of those
students who have attended Auburn in the course of its history.
Dean Cater perceived the worth of each individual
and the changing roles of women. She urged women to complete their educations
and encouraged them to prepare for careers, to be politically active, and to
see themselves as equal members of an expanding society bursting with
opportunities. By her own character and high moral standards, she
enthusiastically set the example - being always as demanding of herself as
For more years than any other administrator, Dean
Cater was a member of the Administration Council, an honor rarely accorded a
dean of women on other college campuses during her era. Serving thus, she was
able to influence many policies and major decisions affecting Auburn
University. President Luther N. Duncan (1935-47) conducted a lengthy search for
a dean of women before selecting Katherine Cater upon the recommendation of
officials of Mercer, Furman, and Syracuse Universities and Limestone College,
her alma mater. President Ralph B. Draughon (1947-65) called her the "best dean
of women in the South" and cited her national reputation for excellence.
President Harry M. Philpott (1965-80) noted that Dean Cater demonstrated
superior administrative skills in handling her diverse responsibilities.
Most of the women's dormitories at Auburn were
built after Katharine Cater became dean of women there. Recognizing the value
of organizations in providing opportunities for developing democratic
leadership, she was influential in more than doubling the number of sororities
and in establishing the honor societies of Alpha Lambda Delta, Owens, and
Mortar board for women students. She worked tirelessly in leadership roles at
both the local and national level in more than two dozen professional,
honorary, and civic organizations and was publicly recognized several times for
Auburn Trustee Morris Savage, while dedicating
Katharine Cater Hall, which served as both her office and her home, said,
"Buildings are named for persons whose lives exemplify the purpose of the
building, and Katharine Cater's love and compassion for individuals, her
nourishment and support of women, her gaiety and wit permeate every room here.
But Katharine Cater's influence extends far beyond these walls to enrich the
lives of all who know her. Many of us here rely on her insight and judgment . .
. drink from her wisdom . . . take comfort from her smile and courage from her