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Margaret Olmsted

Professor of Latin and mathematics, 1921-1967

Margaret Olmsted, working at her desk in the 1960s.
Margaret Olmsted, working at her desk in the 1960s.

Margaret Olmsted was born on Feb. 7, 1894, in Orange City, Iowa. Her parents were Robert Ward Olmsted and Jennie Ernst Fahnestock Olmsted. She attended Rock Island High School, Rock Island, Illinois, and graduated in 1911. Margaret then attended Augustana College from 1911 until 1915, and was voted president of her class. She was also the valedictorian of her graduating class; Dr. Conrad Bergendoff, later president of Augustana College, was the salutatorian.

Olmsted earned a Masters of Arts degree from the University of Illinois in 1916, and took graduate classes at the University of Iowa and the University of Chicago. After finishing her studies, she taught English and history for three years at high schools in Viola, Illinois (1916-17) and East Moline, Illinois (1917-19).

Margaret Olmsted joined the Augustana faculty in 1921. She was one of the earliest female professors at the school. In 1937 she was named Associate Professor of Latin and Mathematics. She was known for her love of teaching, and often stressed the importance of studying foreign languages. After 46 years of teaching, she retired in 1967. That same year, she was named Professor Emeritus of Classics. Her connection to Augustana continued when she was named to the Augustana Alumni Association Board of Directors in the 1970s.

Olmstead was a member of several professional associations during her life, including the Rock Island-Moline Branch of the American Association of University Women, the Mathematical Association of America, and Phi Beta Kappa. Margaret was also an active member of the Rock Island League of Women Voters. Along with her father, Robert W. Olmsted, she was a devoted member of Broadway Presbyterian Church.

Margaret had three younger siblings: Elizabeth (Mrs. Eugene Youngert), Robert E., and Jeannette Olmsted. All four attended Augustana College under the encouragement of their father, and the three sisters completed their undergraduate degrees there. For most of her life, Margaret lived in Rock Island together with her father and sister Jeannette. She died October 26, 1994, in Rock Island at the age of 100.