Katharine Cooper Cater (1914-1980)

Katherine Cooper Cater

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 others.

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 her contributions.

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 philosophy."

Past Inductees
Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
Judson College

© 2005 Alabama Women's Hall of Fame