Meet UA’s First Graduate: Susannah Chamberlain Cole

Cole entered Buchtel College on its first day of classes in 1870.

Susannah Chamberlain Cole.

(Image via The University of Akron)

Susannah Chamberlain Cole.

By Brooklyn Dennison, Editor-in-Chief

From millions of women in India joining hands to fight for gender equality to Captain Marvel topping box office milestones, 2019 has been a great year for women. To celebrate these achievements and this year’s Women’s History Month, The Buchtelite will be taking a look back in time at The University of Akron’s first graduating student, a woman named Susanna Chamberlain Cole.


Cole entered Buchtel College the first day it opened in 1870 and was one of four members of its graduating class, with Cole being the first to graduate, Cristine Boyd, director of media relations at UA said.


During her time, she contributed to organizations in the school and around the city. According to Akron Women’s History, a partnership between the Women’s History Project of the Akron Area and the School of Communication at UA, she founded the Carey Literary Society as a student and became its first president.


Cole was also an active member of various women’s organizations in the city, the Akron Women’s History website said, such as the North Hill Literary Club and the Fifty Year Club, which she helped found.


After her graduation, she worked for several newspapers including the Daily Argus and The Sunday Gazette. However, working at a newspaper was not considered “acceptable” work for a woman, so she continued her career teaching at Buchtel College until 1887, the Akron Women’s History Website said.


Unfortunately, like many women of the time, Cole ended her career when she married. She married Frank F. Cole, a Michigan newspaperman in 1887.


Cole was arguably a trailblazer and helped pave the way for future women students to attend the University.


One UA student, Rachael Hudson said, “It’s respectful that she was the first female graduate and amazing that she graduated in only three years.” Susie shows that students can do anything, she said.


Read more about her story on the Akron Women’s History website.