Influential Women of NNU: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
In celebration of women’s history month, NNU’s Women’s Equity Initiative (WEI) will be honoring and celebrating outstanding NNU women from the past, present and future and bringing to light some of the accomplishments, struggles and the impact of these women on history. NNU has always had a large female presence on campus and, with this presence, NNU boasts a long history, rich in accomplishments of women students, staff, faculty, administrators, and trustees.
WEI understands that we all follow the footsteps of the women who blazed the trail, which is why NNU honors four pioneers who helped build the legacy of NNU.
One of NNU’S most ambitious alumni, Olive Winchester was a genuine trailblazer. An intelligent and hardworking woman, she gained prolific success in life by applying her talents both within and beyond campus, as not only the first woman, but the first NNU professor to earn a doctorate. Winchester’s ambitious fervor paid off greatly as she was the first woman to be ordained in England, as well as being the first woman to graduate with high honors from the University of Glasgow and Drew University. She dedicated herself to her foundation by contributing a great deal of her family’s wealth to our campus, helping to transform NNU from an academy to college, and serving our community as a theological professor, dean, and vice president.
An alumna with a passion for the future generation, Leah Peterson applied her bachelor’s and master's degree in education to a tiny schoolroom in backcountry Idaho. The first woman principal in Alaska, dedicated over four decades of her life to teaching children throughout the state, honoring her roots at NNU by transforming her community through service to the truth. Peterson generously donated $7 million to NNU, respecting her roots from which her illustrious career flourished. NNU similarly rewarded her with a Doctor of Humane Letters, using her gift to build the Leah Peterson Learning Commons. This library is the nexus of learning on campus, a place where students honor her legacy by getting the most out of their education at NNU.
An undisputed leader for our school, Thelma Culver served in many roles over the years, her passion for NNU’s values guiding students along the path to greatness. She was described as “a teacher…who produced dedicated teachers,” with the distinction of Teacher of the Year as one of her many decorations. Among these honors she was granted the title NNU Alumna of the year in 1955, named as a “Distinguished Citizen,” Teacher of the Year, served on Idaho State Commission on Teacher Certification, and received a Quadrennial Citation of Merit for her career in public education. Culver shared her love of learning with this campus by teaching education and student teaching to the next generation. She was a strong leader in her field, guiding students by heading the Department of Education, as chair of Upper Division, Division of Applied Studies, and Non-Western Studies, and serving as both academic dean and the dean of Liberal Arts.
Helen Wilson was a dedicated visionary, pouring her compassionate and optimistic spirit into many areas on campus, including serving as dean of women for almost two decades. Named “Professor of the Decade,” Wilson was heavily awarded in her lifetime. Wilson was driven by a love of God’s creations to seek a better world and was known for saying “I love dogs and sophomores.” This loving energy earned her a Distinguished Service Award and Alumnus of the Year in 1967. An entertaining speaker, Wilson continued to spread her optimistic influence in her role as the student newspaper, Crusader’s, advisor and director of campus news bureau. Even beyond the borders of this campus, Wilson was frequently recognized for her powerful guidance and was eventually awarded Outstanding Idaho Woman by the state.
Women who have built upon the foundations laid by their foremothers are some of our greatest influencers today and NNU celebrates four of these dedicated disciples.
Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Our current Trustee Cynthia Ulrich Tobias has carved out a space for herself as a motivational speaker and educator in many fields over the years. With over two and a half decades of private practice, Tobias has received widespread acknowledgment for her leadership expertise in learning styles. Tobias penned 13 best-selling books, receiving national praise for texts such as “The Way We Learn,” “The Way We Work” and “A Woman of Strength and Purpose.” Her humorous and practical insights into human nature have made her a popular guest on radio and television, as well as a valued national and international speaker at institutions ranging from churches to corporations. It is her value of individual strengths which makes Tobias successful at leading others, whether that be in law enforcement, education, or government.
Paula Kellerer has fully dedicated herself to the achievements of others, commanding progress for several Nampa schools as chief academic officer of the district. Responsible for improving many areas of student achievement, she influenced thousands of learners over the years. In her aforementioned role as chief academic officer, Kellerer improved every aspect of the program from curriculum to school safety and made concrete gains for student education all over Nampa. Kellerer applied her degree in Mathematics Education to middle and high school students for over half a decade before embarking as a missionary in Thailand. Representing the Church of the Nazarene overseas, she helped train Thai pastors and create Sunday school services for Thai children. Refocusing her admirable dedication to NNU, Kellerer secured approval for this school’s first-ever doctoral program (Educational Leadership).
Cherie Buckner Webb
Cherie Buckner Webb truly represents NNU’s values of service, earning a master’s in social work emphasizing community organization from this college in 2004. Embodying the values of her major, she organized her state community for years as Representative and Senator. She now serves a vital role in community service as Senate Minority Leader. This fifth-generation Idahoan works in a variety of committees with the goal of improving the community for all its members, working with such organizations as White Men as Full Diversity Partners, Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, and American Mothers of Idaho. Webb also serves the community by teaching her skills to others as a certified coach, motivational speaker, organizational development consultant, and founder of Sojourn Coaching. Webb is an inspiration to her constituents and students, exemplifying dedicated leadership and community service.
Dorthy Ackerman Butler
Dorothy Ackerman Butler graduated from the Department of Chemistry only seven years ago and has continued to pave the path for women in STEM, influencing many young hopefuls through outreach programs and teaching. Butler studied how sugar carbohydrates might be used to diagnose and cure cancer cells. Her research is featured on the cover of ACS Infectious Diseases Journal. In addition to earning an organic chemistry doctorate from Vanderbilt University, Butler completed her postdoctoral fellow at the National Cancer Institute. Butler hopes to one day teach at a small liberal arts university like NNU and whichever institution accepts her will greatly benefit from her brilliant mind and servant’s heart.
NNU honors its past and invests in its future, which is embodied in the four young women that the WEI highlights here.
Jessica Charles has had a firm head on her shoulders from the beginning; having already obtained a college degree by the time she left high school, Charles will further challenge herself in law school, aiming to become a prosecutor and one day a judge. She hopes to bring the values she learnt in her hometown Yakima community and NNU community out into the world, serving less fortunate communities through the transformative power of justice.
Nice Loufoua fled to America many years ago for a better life and is now using her degree in social work to make the world a better place. Her career in track at NNU has provided Loufoua with a strong sense of community, one which she extends beyond her personal sphere. Pairing her rigorous drive with her keen sense of empathy, Loufoua hopes to aid the most unfortunate in society by helping refugees like herself peacefully transition to their new lives in America.
is a woman of brains and brawn, overcoming great heartache and stress to excel in the classroom and as a dual-sport athlete. Graduating with a Marketing degree and an MBA just last year, Tubbs has already hit the ground running as the newest member of Seattle Storm Women’s Basketball marketing department. She will aid her colleagues in marketing with her signature resolve as she did on the basketball court, in track, and on the field.
Abigail Hass and Lauren Gould
are applying their hard-earned Biology degrees side by side out in the world. These two women only graduated last year but they are already investing their talents into worthy and challenging projects, currently researching fertility by investigating pregnancy sustainability in the first trimester. Hass and Gould defended their findings at a major medical conference here in Idaho and will continue to invest in this project. In pursuit of this noble goal, these women have overcome many taxing obstacles with their sharp minds and determined hearts.