Mary B. McElwain Papers
Mary Belle McElwain was born in Chambersburg Pennsylvania on May 14, 1874, to Robert Shannon and Alta (Lindsey) McElwain. She earned an A.B. at Wilson College in 1895 and remained there as an instructor in Greek, English and mathematics until 1903. She continued teaching at Miss Wright's School at Bryn Mawr from 1903 to 1908 when she entered Cornell University completing graduate work with a Master's Degree in 1909 and Ph.D. in 1910. She did post-graduate work at Bryn Mawr College, University of Pennsylvania, and the School of Classical Studies in Rome. She also received an honorary Litt.D. from Wilson College in 1936.
In 1910, Miss McElwain accepted a position as an instructor of Latin and Greek at Smith College, part of the first group of assistant professors. In a long and distinguished career at Smith she was a popular professor and served as class dean for three terms in 1918-20, 1920-24, and 1926-30. She was acting dean of the college in 1941-42 and also made Professor Emeritus of Classical Languages and Literature. Upon her retirement she returned to her alma mater to serve as acting dean until 1946, as Wilson College Historian from 1946 onward, and acting President of Wilson between February and August in 1950. She was also a member of the Wilson College Board of Trustees from 1929-1932 and 1938-1956.
In addition to her teaching and administrative duties at Smith and Wilson Colleges, Professor McElwain was a published editor and translator of the classics. She was an accomplished speaker, lecturer, and public advocate of classical education. Her professional memberships included, Phi Beta Kappa, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Classical Association of the American Academy in Rome, American Philological Association, American Friends of Greece, Inc., and the American Association of University Women. Testimonies to her status as a well loved and admired educator exist in the form of her students' published works which were dedicated to her.
Mary Belle McElwain died on February 23, 1964, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, a few months short of her ninetieth birthday. At Wilson College a scholarship and residence hall bear her name as one of the college's most distinguished alumnae.