Happy Founders’ Day, Kappa Delta and a Snippet about Olga Achtenhagen, the “Hiking Professor”

Kappa Delta was founded on October 23, 1897 at the State Female Normal School (now Longwood University) in Farmville, Virginia. Its founders are Lenora Ashmore Blackiston, Julia Gardiner Tyler Wilson, Sara Turner White and Mary Sommerville Sparks Hendrick.

Among the charter members of Kappa Delta’s Psi Chapter at Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin was Olga Achtenhagen.  The year was 1918. After graduating from Lawrence, Achtenhagen earned additional degrees from Columbia University and Oxford University. Her trip to England for study may well have been her first trip abroad, but it was far from her last.

Achtenhagen taught at Appleton High School and was on the Lawrence College faculty until the late 1930s. She was nicknamed the “hiking professor” and it was estimated that on three trips abroad during the 1930s, she walked 3,000 miles.

Her travels were highlighted in convocation talks to the  Lawrence College students. In a 1931 talk about her travels to England and Germany, Achtenhagen told the Lawrence students “my mem­ories of these days of travel are mem­ories of people rather than places. The places we saw were made mem­orable by the people who once lived there.”

She also spoke to civic groups about her travels. On January 5, 1936, she spoke to the County Nurses’ Association  in Neenah (WI). Her subject was “Summer in Capri,” the Italian island where she spent several weeks during the summer of 1935.

She served Kappa Delta as National President (1931-35) and she spent six years as Angelos Editor. Her 1931 Founders’ Day message was a heartfelt one,  “Our founders’ faith in each other made it possible for them to work together; their hope in a living God made their vision seem attainable; and their gift of love converted a dream to reality.”

In a 1934 talk about her travels she said,  “I like to remember lest I for­get . . . . What I see and what I hear on these occasions usually becomes a symbol of remembrance, and it is  the remembering that matters.”

In 1937, she moved to Plainfield, New Jersey, where she taught English at Plainfield High School.  There she served as Chairman of the English Department and Coordinator of Language Arts. She retired in 1958.

The travel bug never left her and she spent 35 years as a freelance travel writer. Her articles appeared in many publications including the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly and the Christian Science Monitor. She authored novels, poems, and three textbooks. Achtenhagen was a member of the journalism honorary Theta Sigma Phi and Mortar Board.

In 1959, she and two other charter members of the Psi Chapter attended Kappa Delta’s Wisconsin State Day. She spoke about the “Position of the Fraternity.” Achtenhagen died on August 20, 1976 at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City. She was 77 years old. 


Olga Achtenhagen(C) Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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