Esther Weir

Esther Weir recalls coming to SU as a young teacher

Armed with a master’s degree from Northwestern University, Esther Messick Weir arrived in Georgetown in 1938 as a 22-year-old woman eager to teach at Southwestern University. From the moment she stepped foot on campus, she left an indelible mark on her students and on the town where she has now lived for 88 years. As the View learns from her insights about her early days at SU, teaching was often uphill work.

She wasn’t offered the job right away.   “The physical fitness job at Southwestern had been filled by 17 different people for 17 different years in a row. A woman would take it, shake her head, and then leave after that first year. There wasn’t any equipment and there wasn’t anything to work with. All you had was a bunch of women students. I didn’t get it that first year [I applied]. Another woman got it, but she didn’t stay but the one year, and I got it the next.”

What she didn’t teach:   “A former Southwestern physical education teacher later became the dean of women. She told the girls that they should marry a minister because ministers were educated there at Southwestern. So the girls were being trained to be ministers’ wives, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t train them to be ministers’ wives; I started training them to be dancers. Except dancing was banned at Southwestern.”

Teaching “folk games”:   I was a dance major at Northwestern, and I really wanted to teach dancing. But I also wanted to teach college, since I had a master’s degree. I came to Southwestern because it was the only college job available, but they didn’t allow dancing, so I had to call it something else. I called it “folk games” and I taught “folk movements.”

A few years later . . .   “A couple of years later, when Southwestern got the gym built, I taught regular physical education, teaching skills, and classes like anatomy of the skeleton and physiology. I taught dancing, too.

She still participates in exercise classes.   “Oh, yes! I always liked my exercise classes. I love my exercise classes today. Mainly because I’m not having to teach it!

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