Kent alumna older than KSU

Bethany Jones

Mildred Bumphrey turns 100

Mildred Bumphrey, 100, is one of the oldest Kent State Alums.

Credit: Beth Rankin

She was born the same year that Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity and made the equation E=mc2 famous.

She has lived through 18 presidents, two world wars and the invention of electricity, radio, television and the microwave oven.

She was born before Kent State was even a college and was present when the first brick was laid at McGilvrey hall.

She is Mildred Elgin Bumphrey, one of the oldest Kent State alums, and she turned 100 yesterday.

Bumphrey does not like a lot of attention, but she is learning to cope with it.

“People keep telling me you only turn 100 once,” she said.

She attributes her good health and mind to staying busy.

“I’ve always been the busiest woman on the block,” she said. “Apparently I have good genes. I never had bad habits and I always tried to eat and exercise with moderation and judgment.”

Bumphrey grew up in Kent where some of her fondest memories include her best friend Louise McGilvrey, daughter of John McGilvrey, president of Kent State from 1912 to 1944.

Bumphrey said she remembers she and Louise sitting next to McGilvrey in the Kent Auditorium in front of the trustees, deans and faculty members.

“I remember how wonderful the McGilvreys were to me,” she said. “I was just a spoiled, spoiled girl because Louise was my friend.

“I had to kill myself to keep up with her. It gave me a very good education.”

Bumphrey graduated from high school in 1923 and went on to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. She graduated from Eastman in 1928 and later from Kent State with a Bachelor of Science in music education and a minor in art.

She always wanted to go to school for music and she had to learn how to play numerous instruments. Her main focus was the violin.

Mary Sue Hyatt, interim director at the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music, said that although Bumphrey does not consider herself a great violinist, she is.

“She’s a wonderful role model for anyone any age,” she said. “She’s a pillar in the community and a pillar of strength. I wish her many more happy birthdays.”

Bumphrey said after college she taught music for three years at a junior high in Rochester. She was then offered a teaching position in Kent. She moved back to the area and taught as supervisor of music and art at Theodore Roosevelt High School from 1931 to 1939.

She was also the first woman elected to the Kent Board of Education, where she served two terms from 1948 to 1955. The board of education honored her in 2004 by naming a room inside the Depeyster Building the Mildred Elgin Bumphrey Board Room.

Jim Myers, who served on the Kent Board of Education, and his wife, Sally, both said Bumphrey is an amazing woman.

“She’s a delightful woman, it has been a privilege knowing her,” Jim said.

Bumphrey also worked as the director of the young people’s choir at the United Church of Christ for 22 years.

“She had a youth choir here that was absolutely fantastic,” said Luella Blair, a volunteer at United Church of Christ. “She’s a wonderful story teller, so articulate. She’s just a wonderful friend.”

Bumphrey said that when she married her husband Cecil in 1939 she stopped working.

Sue Hodge, secretary at United Church of Christ, said that seeing the Bumphreys together inspired her.

“They were such a wonderful couple,” she said. “You can tell that they adored each other. I was fortunate to have gotten to know Cecil before he passed. They were both just wonderful people.”

In 2000, Kent State presented Bumphrey with the Distinguished Alumna Award for career achievement in music education.

Bumphrey is modest about her accomplishments.

“I’m really just one of the girls,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate.”

She said she does not feel like she is 100.

“I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel at 70, and I don’t know how you’re supposed to feel at 100,” she said. “I don’t hurt any place at all.”

Bumphrey said she is thankful that her mind is in good condition. She never stops using it and thinks that has helped her along the years.

Bumphrey enjoys knitting and makes almost all of her clothes. She won third place this year at the Stow Monroe Falls Public Library spring needlework show.

Bumphrey now lives at Stow-Glen Retirement Village where she says the staff takes excellent care of her. She said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the friends she has had and the wonderful people at Stow-Glen.

Kay Keller, co-director of independent living at Stow-Glen, said that it is hard to believe that Bumphrey is 100.

“We love her,” she said. “She’s just an outstanding lady. There’s no one that she dislikes. She is very intelligent and just a sharp woman.”

About 18 guests came to celebrate with Bumphrey Thursday night as she was honored by the Delta Gammas, the sorority she belonged to when she went to Kent State. She is the oldest chapter member and a charter member of the Gamma Epsilon chapter.

Rachel Slitpy, president of the Kent Delta Gamma alumni chapter, said that Bumphrey was presented with a proclamation on behalf of the national president of the fraternity. The chapter has even established a scholarship in her name.

Slitpy said Bumphrey also received an album full of cards given by members who could not make the ceremony.

“We were thrilled to celebrate this milestone with Mildred; she is truly an inspiration,” Slitpy said.

Bumphrey celebrated her birthday on Saturday with a small group of immediate relatives. She had a small dinner party Sunday night and an open house yesterday from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at Stow-Glen where friends from the university and the community were invited to celebrate.

“I don’t want that regular, old, dry yellow or white cake,” she said. “There a lot of things I like better.”

Instead, Bumphrey asked to have Boston cream pie on Sunday and carrot cake yesterday.

Bumphrey said that life is beautiful and that providing services to others is very important to her.

“You come into the world alone and you leave alone. It’s up to you to make the most if it,” she said. “It’s up to you to give something back to the world.”

Contact academic affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected].