History of RIT Women’s Council

The Women's Council of RIT was founded in 1955 for women who were interested in helping to serve the RIT community by acting as "ambassadors" for the school.

In April of 1955, Aileen Vanderbilt Webb, founder of RIT’s School of American Crafts and Marcia Ellingson, wife of RIT President Mark Ellingson met with a small group of RIT trustees’ and faculty members' wives to discuss the new idea of the creation of “some committees of women to give volunteer service to various departments of the Institute”.

Marcia Ellingson then wrote a letter to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees requesting that the Board give official status to “these groups of women who would like to form a Women’s Council for the Rochester Institute of Technology”.

On Monday, May 23, 1955, with the wholehearted approval of RIT President Mark Ellingson and Vice Presidents Al Davis and Leo Smith, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees granted official status to the Women’s Council of RIT (WCRIT).

Following the approval of WCRIT, the organization began to develop their areas of focus and goals for supporting RIT.

In 1955 the Council noted the need to update RIT’s library began to personally donate books on all subjects and to request donations of books from generous friends.

In the early 1960’s the Council actively took part in the discussions regarding moving RIT’s campus from downtown to the suburbs. In the fall of 1961, one meeting was devoted to a presentation from President Mark Ellingson on the problems that RIT was facing in its urban environment. Later, when the crucial vote, To Move—Or to Stay was posed, the Council voted unanimously to move.

Regularly scheduled monthly programs and luncheons have been held since the beginning to inform the members of RIT’s initiatives, special projects and necessities. In the 1960’s the Council began its fundraising efforts based on RIT campaigns with many successful outcomes. As the Council grew and focus was transitioned, it soon became apparent that helping women students succeed through scholarships should become the primary focus.

History of Scholarships and Fundraisers


Women’s Council projects in the 1960’s included:

  • A fund-raising campaign to raise $4,000 for “The New Campus Fund”
  • Furnishing the altar, lectern, chalices, candle holders, Ark of the Covenant, and hand-woven wall hangings for the RIT Interfaith Chapel – all designed and crafted by the faculty of the School for American Craftsmen
  • Raising funds for scholarships for the School of Art & Design and the School for American Crafts. (speak to this connect from early years and consistency)


“Mr. RIT”, Al Davis
In 1972, the Council began supporting childcare on campus through the Horton Child Care Center. In 1996 Margaret’s House was established through the generosity of Mr. Alfred Davis, Vice President Emeritus, and named in honor of his wife Margaret Welcher Davis. The Council makes annual contributions to Margaret’s House to award childcare tuition scholarships.


A bequest from one of the Council’s founding members, Laura Russell, established the Laura Bradfield Russell Memorial Scholarship which funds one to three students each year in RIT’s allied health programs.


Circa 1985-1990 RIT’s Access to the Future Campaign, individual solicitation of Council members raised $40,000 for a Student Life Center Courtyard in honor of Marcia Ellingson. The Council also held a downtown event jointly with Sibley’s Department Store that raised several thousand dollars for the Campaign.


In 1990, a two-day Council event, the Karl Haas Benefit, brought national and international attention to RIT/NTID and raised $20,000 to establish the Women’s Council Endowed Scholarship for Hearing-Impaired Students.

in 1991, The Council next funded the Women’s Council Endowed Scholarship, which currently supports one deserving woman student per year.


In 2008 and 2012, a combined $16,500 was raised through luncheons and fashion shows to add to the  Women’s Council Endowed Scholarship funds.

In 2015, Bridging the Gap Fund in honor of Women’s Council’s 60th anniversary was announced and in 2019 reached it’s $60,000 endowment goal.

In 2017, established the $5,000 Women’s Council/Glass Program Collaborative Scholarship for an incoming MFA student working primarily with glass. 

Over the years, WCRIT has endowed over $615,000 in endowed scholarship funds.