Curly hair pinned and collar stiffened, Grace Lyon seems like your typical young woman of the late 1800s. But the being behind this somber, captivating gaze played a special role in the college’s history when she became the first woman to receive a diploma from Denison. Although she did not receive her parchment directly from the hands of then-president Galusha Anderson at her 1889 commencement, the university acknowledged Lyon as a Denison graduate in 1900 when the school merged with Shepardson College that same year. Interestingly, her schooling was funded by John D. Rockefeller, who had pledged to Sabrina Lyon–his fifth grade teacher and Grace’s mother–to pay for her children’s education after her husband’s death. Rockefeller was a Denison trustee from 1874 until 1892, which influenced Grace’s decision to attend the downhill Shepardson College. After Denison, Grace married Rev. Charles Louis Seasholes ‘89 and had five children, while teaching high school in Lima and Monroeville, Ohio. After the death of her husband in 1919, she continued to teach and live in Granville, where she died of pneumonia in 1924. This year, the Denison Annual Fund honors her ground-breaking legacy with the creation of the Grace Lyon Society, which recognizes gifts to the college of $25,000 to $49,999.
Published November 2010