Ida May Missildine (1869-1963), circa 1906
Rollins graduated its first class in 1890, awarding degrees to two students: Clara Louise Guild and Ida May Missildine. As the first graduate (since the degrees were awarded alphabetically), Clara Guild has been the subject of many articles over the years, but though Miss Missildine has received less attention, she is still fondly remembered as a charter student and a member of our first graduating class.
Ida Missildine came to Rollins from Charleston, SC, where her father was a Congregational minister. Reminiscing in 1959, she wrote, “He decided on Rollins for me rather than Wellesley Preparatory School, so that I reached Winter Park in time for Rollins’ opening day.” Classes began on November 4, 1885.
The Rollins campus in 1888, during Ida’s student days. Shown here, from left to right, are Knowles Hall, Pinehurst Cottage, and the Dining Hall.
Though we have photos of the Rollins students and faculty that date back to the 1880s, Ida has not been identified in any of them. She–and her brothers, Arthur and Ernest ’95–might have been part of this group, photographed in 1888-89 (click on the image to enlarge):
Another intriguing photo (below) of some of Ida’s classmates has only this note on the back: “A glimpse into the hall-way of the Boy’s Cottage (Pinehurst) at 10:00 p.m.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree, Ida served as an assistant teacher of piano at Rollins for one year. She then continued her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and with teachers in New York and Berlin. She taught music at Converse College in South Carolina for two years, but spent most of her career (1916-1957) as the organist of the First Presbyterian Church in Kirkwood, Missouri.
Ida returned to the campus several times in her later years. During a visit in August 1954, she shared some of her memories, recalling the College’s first president, Edward P. Hooker, as “a charming old gentleman” and remembering that there were four buildings on campus when she was an undergradute (two dormitories, Knowles Hall, and a dining hall). She also mentioned that students avoided swimming in the lake due to “enormous” alligators and made only rare trips to Orlando, a journey that meant “a long drive by carriage through heavy sand” (The Corner Cupboard, 8/19/1954). President Hugh McKean was away during this visit, so she was escorted by his secretary, Cynthia Eastwood, who reported that although Ida was now in “the ‘retirement’ bracket,” she still “led me a merry chase about the campus.”
She could not come back as often as she liked, however, and in 1955 sent a telegram to be read at an alumni luncheon in her absence. It read, in part:
I am sorry that I cannot dine with the Alumni body on the 26th. Please say to them if opportunity offers that I am hoping the future holds for them as many pleasant memories of their Rollins days as it has done for me. Ask them if they would enjoy rowing about on their beautiful lakes in heavy flat bottom boats as we used to do and if they would not find it somewhat exciting to come upon a huge grand daddy alligator walking sedately up the board walk from Lake Osceola toward the business part of town.”
Students boating on Lake Virginia, 1889
The following year, after President McKean told her of his interest in the textbooks used in Rollins’ earliest classes, Ida sent several of hers as a gift to the College. They are still in one of our Special Collections.
Ida’s textbooks, reflecting the College’s classical curriculum when she was a student
Miss Missildine returned to the College in 1957, her 67th reunion year, and received the Rollins Decoration of Honor. President McKean presented the award for her “achievements in the realm of music,” adding, “but we honor you more for symbolizing with charm and gentility the first generation of Rollins graduates.”
Ida May Missildine (center) in 1957, with Berkeley Blackman ’07, Ruth Ford Atkinson ’97, Frederick C. Lyman (son of charter trustee Frederick W. Lyman ) and President Hugh McKean
Ida was not well enough to return to the College for her 70th reunion in 1960. Below is the last telegram we have from her.
With this final telegram, Ida surely speaks for generations of Rollins alumni: “Together, in spirit.”
~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist