Columbia College honors 1929 graduate and donor

Saturday, March 15, 2008 | 4:12 p.m. CDT; updated 1:44 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Yellow painted walls, golden chandeliers and pictures of elegance greet all who walk into Missouri Hall at Columbia College. This scene, similar to that of an elegant ballroom, is one of the many luxuries at the private school made possible by contributions from the Dillingham family.

Frances Thompson Dillingham, a 1929 graduate of Columbia College, gave a contribution to her alma mater that allowed Missouri Hall to be renovated. In 1996, she, along with her husband, Jay; son, John; and daughter-in-law, Nancy, established two scholarships for freshmen from Platte or Clay counties.

Dillingham and six other family members were honored at a luncheon Friday by the college.

Dillingham’s son, John Dillingham, was presented with a plaque during a luncheon held in the Dillingham Room. The room is located a few steps from where Frances Dillingham met her husband about 80 years earlier, John Dillingham said.

The two were introduced through Edna Chesnut, John Dillingham’s paternal great-grandmother, who was a housemother at MU.

Chesnut had a single grandson whom she thought would make a good match for a young girl who attended Columbia College. The college, founded in 1851, was a two-year women’s college until it became a four-year school and began accepting men in 1970.

Jay Dillingham and Frances Thompson met for the first time in the entrance of the building where their son would be telling their story 80 years later. Their first date was at a horse show.

Frances Dillingham later formed a close relationship with a teacher, Camilla Belle Singleton, for whom she named a scholarship in 1987.

John Dillingham, an MU alum, said one of the benefits of attending a small school like Columbia College is the possibility for intimate relationships to form.

He said these relationships can make a difference in a person’s college career, and even in an age of technology it can’t be replaced.

“Now, a machine can’t do that. It’s still a person ­— individual to individual,” he said. “You don’t get that off of a back of a box of instructions.”

Missy Montgomery, major gifts officer for the college, said the atmosphere at Columbia College allows for a sense of family.

“I’m a graduate, and I still have that,” she said. “There’s something about Columbia College that gives the motivation to give back.”

Montgomery said the family’s contributions surpass monetary donations and include time, energy and advice.

Other women honored during the luncheon, with their graduation dates, are Roxy Thompson Woods, 1902; Edna Chesnut Dillingham, 1906; Elizabeth Chesnut Farnsworth, 1906; Margaret Brown Thompson, 1921; Louise Thompson, 1933; and Barbara Dillingham Landingham, 1961.

All the women are wives, cousins, nieces and other family stemming from the Dillingham family.

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