Panel discusses impact of Ball family women on Ball State community

<p>(Left to right) Thalia Mulvihill, Jessica Jenkins, Susan Smith and Karen Vincent prepare for the "Beneficence of Ball Women" event March 19, 2019, in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Each panelist told the story of some of the women of the Ball family. <strong>Scott Fleener, DN</strong></p>

(Left to right) Thalia Mulvihill, Jessica Jenkins, Susan Smith and Karen Vincent prepare for the "Beneficence of Ball Women" event March 19, 2019, in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center. Each panelist told the story of some of the women of the Ball family. Scott Fleener, DN

The five columns behind the Beneficence Statue at Ball State — one for each Ball brother — are a symbol for the university.

But the pillars representing the women of the Ball family “are no longer invisible,” said Thalia Mulivhill, acting assistant provost and assistant professor of higher education and social foundations of education, speaking about Virginia Ball during the “Beneficence of Ball Women” event Tuesday in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center.

Four panelists presented their insights on some of the Ball women that impacted the community. Mulvihill talked about the lives of Lucina, Francis and Virginia Ball, all of whom contributed to the student education. 

“We have a very beautiful and rich community that has been one of equal effort but not equal awareness or recognition,” said Ashleigh Bingham, doctoral assistant in the women's and gender studies program. “Hopefully they will see that what we have and the reality that we enjoy today and the privileges that are involved in that come from equal effort from both sides.”

Mulvihill shared a story Virginia told her, in which she would tell her husband to stop by the Beneficence Statue when returning to Muncie.

Virginia would tell her, “five pillars; one for each of the five Ball brothers, but what about the women? Why are their pillars invisible?” Mulvihill said.

At the end of her women’s and gender studies class, Mulvihill and her students have a ritual of walking the path to the Beneficence Statue, forming a circle and speaking about women and mentors who influenced their educational journeys.

“At the conclusion of that semester, every student mentioned Virginia Ball,” Mulvihill said.

Jessica Jenkins, a curator at Minnetrista, discussed the contributions Sarah Roger Ball and Bertha Crosley Ball made to visiting nurses and those suffering from tuberculosis. Both women moved to Muncie with their husbands, and both continued to pursue their own interests in public service.

Susan Smith, an archivist at Minnetrista, talked about the life of Lucy Ball Owsley, the eldest daughter of Frank C. Ball. Lucy joined her husband as he traveled to Romania, Ireland and Denmark as a diplomat.

Karen Vincent, director of collections at Minnetrista, discussed the achievements of Margaret Ball Petty, Lucy Ball's sister.

First Lady Jennifer Mearns, who moderated the event, said she doesn’t think people know how “unique,” “successful” and “accomplished” the Ball women were in their own endeavors.

“[The Ball women] seemed like a lot of fun,” Mearns said. “I really wish I had known them.”

Contact Scott Fleener with comments at jsfleener@bsu.edu or on Twitter @Scott_Reports.

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