Honoring Grandmothers, Mothers, and Sisters of Northland College


Northland College, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, was far ahead of its time in its commitment to educating and providing jobs for women. Founded in 1892, twenty-four years before women won the right to vote, the College wished to provide educational opportunities for residents in northern Wisconsin and provide an environment for learning that would promote sound moral and spiritual values.

Growing up in Ashland, my sister, Vina “Bunny,” and I attended musical events in the Alvord Theatre. I was a member of the Northland College band and the symphonette while in high school. I don’t think there was ever a question that Bunny and I would attend Northland College.

Northland is in my blood, in the blood of the women of my family. In fact, I was #38 and Bunny was #39 in our extended family to attend Northland College.

Grandma Elizabeth Hubbard was the first. She attended nurse’s training in the late 1920s and was required to take a science course at Northland— walking up the same steps to Wheeler Hall that I walked as a student in the 1970s.

My great-aunt Ada Solberg worked at the College, giving many years to Northland as an integral part of the support staff working as a secretary.

My aunt Eva Hubbard also attended Northland in the late 1920s eventually graduated 1931 and had a short career as a one-room schoolhouse teacher.

My mother Marian Penn, who received her music degree at Northland College in 1952, was such an advocate in my life— encouraging me to grow both academically and morally as a child. She taught music in public school for three years and has taught piano lessons to students through the years and continues to be active at Northland.

As a Northland College student, I played music and went to concerts, was active with the Business Club, Sig Tau Little Sisters, and I was even voted the Oktoberfest Queen when I was a sophomore.

I eventually met my LumberJack husband, Jack, and grew my Northland family. Bunny, Jack, and I were all very close. She too was active with music, her sorority, and other activities on campus. Bunny and I graduated together in 1978, and after graduation, she remained active on the alumni board.

The values that I learned from my genealogical family and Northland family alike, helped drive my passion for music, volunteering, and eventually creating a scholarship program at Northland.

Northland has played an important role in the lives of the many women in my Northland family. The College was particularly important to Bunny. So much so, that when she passed away, my family wanted to honor her by creating an endowed scholarship—the Vina “Bunny” Penn Endowed Scholarship—keeping her memory alive and giving others a chance to enjoy Northland as much as she did.

This spring we honor all mothers, those connected directly to Northland, and those who are not. This spring I am celebrating the Northland women in my life: Grandma Hubbard, Great-Aunt Ada, Aunt Eva, my mother Marian, my sister Bunny, and so many more. Who are your Northland women, and how are you going to honor them this spring?

Julie Penn Coy graduated from Northland in 1978 with a degree in business Administration and a minor in music.  She worked in the real estate industry prior to attending law school at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  After receiving her juris doctor, Julie practiced law in Greeley Colorado for five years. At that time she moved with her family to Gansevoort, New York, and joined State Farm Insurance Companies as a claim attorney.  In 1996, she and her husband, Jack, decided to move into an agency with State Farm. They moved to western New York and opened their agencies in January 1997. Julie and Jack have two children, grandchildren, and have been married more than forty years. 

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