Bertha L. Nixson
Bertha L. Nixson was head of the Department of Home Economics from 1915 to 1945. Originally from Elmyra, New York, Nixson earned a bachelor’s degree at Lewis Institute of Arts and Sciences, Chicago, in 1913 and a master’s degree at Columbia University in 1929. She made a general tour of Europe and attended the University of London in the summer of 1929.
According to a brief tribute in the 1917 Chestnut Burr, “It would be difficult to find a more enthusiastic worker, and one who believes more thoroughly in her work than Miss Nixson. So thoroughly does she portray the ideas of good home making, and so well does she enter into the spirit of the practical, rather than the theoretical, that her enthusiasm can hardly help but reach all her students.”
In a Kent Stater article dated Aug. 5, 1926, titled “Co-Ed has Friend: Miss Nixson defends cooking of college girl,” she is quoted as saying, “Certainly college girls know the difference between a chafing dish and an electric sweeper. Girls that enter Kent State have passed the average mark and are above the ordinary run of girl.” The article also says that “Girls taking practical courses from Miss Nixson learn the art of living on a small income, how to serve the family meal without a maid and other necessary things if a college girl should marry a young college graduate.”
Nixson was responsible for developing the home economics department in its early period. Its primary purpose was to train future teachers of home economics. While such classes have gone by the wayside in most high schools and colleges, the department was successful during Nixson’s tenure. In a Kent Stater article dated Oct. 4, 1927, she announced that all her students in the home economics department the previous year, both degree and diploma, had been placed in teaching positions. The demand for home economics teachers was so great that she even had placed undergraduates in responsible positions.
In 1929, she instituted the home economics practice house. Then, in 1947, the administration sponsored a new home management house named in her honor. It was a three-story building built in 1865 on the corner of Summit Road and Terrace Drive, in which six students could practice the responsibilities related to running a household.
“So well does she enter into the spirit of the practical, rather than the theoretical, that her enthusiasm can hardly help but reach all her students.”
Nixson served as faculty advisor for the Household Arts Club, which was comprised of students in the Household Arts, later renamed Household Science, and finally, the Home Economics Department. She also was the advisor of the Phi Alpha Alpha sorority, which was founded at Kent State in 1930.
She was involved in many organizations outside of Kent State as well, including the Ohio Economics Club (once serving as vice president), the National Education Society, the American Association of University Women and the American Association of University Professors. Nixson also was one of the seven founders of the local and state chapters of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary educational society.
Nixson retired in July 1945. She died at her home, at 543 Lake St., Kent, on Dec. 8, 1948, following a prolonged illness. She was buried in Michigan.
Nixson Hall, which is located near Verder Hall and the Kent Center for the Performing Arts, was dedicated to Bertha Nixson in 1966. The $660,000 home economics building now serves as the office of the School of Health Sciences, which supports programs in athletic training, exercise science/physiology, health education and promotion, integrated health studies, nutrition and dietetics and speech pathology and audiology.
- The Kent Stater, 5 August 1926
- The Kent Stater, 21 October 1926
- The Kent Stater, 4 October 1927
- The Kent Stater, 16 August 1929
- The Kent Stater, 18 October 1929
- The Kent Stater, 9 January 1930
- The Kent Stater, 3 December 1931
- The Kent Stater, 10 August 1933
- The Kent Stater, 10 July 1945
- The Kent Stater, 8 December 1948
- Daily Kent Stater, 18 February 1964
- Daily Kent Stater, 21 May 1965