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Kate Andrews

Lethbridge's First Lady of Education

Water Works Wonders
A History of the White, Wilson, McMahon,
River Junction School Districts Pages 144 - 145
Taken from an article published in an early
'Lethbridge Magazine' written by Norma Shologan

In July 1912 Kate Andrews was 16. She was five foot ten inches tall and had finished her formal schooling. She shook out her red curls, braided her hair across the top of her head, lengthened her skirts (all in the interest of maturity) and went off to teach in the Etzikom district, where she learned early to assert her authority.

On the first day of school, a boy of 21 who was to be one of her pupils rode his horse into the school room directly up to her desk. Undaunted, Kate whipped the reins out of his hands and led the horse to the door. In one snappy motion she slapped the horse's rump and grabbed the boy's shirt. The boy stayed in. The horse galloped off. Problem solved.

Kate Brodie continued teaching at Warner and Stirling, leaving that area for a position in Lethbridge, where she worked at the Westminster and Fleetwood schools. In June 1921 she retired to become Mrs. William Andrews. In 1924 the couple settled on a farm in the White School District (east of the Lethbridge Airport). It was there they raised their three daughters.

Kate Andrews will always be remembered by her family with a warm, deep affection. She was loving and consistent, never showed bias, and had a delightful sense of humor, laughing heartily if the joke was on her. It was in her family life that she especially displayed her "heart of a woman," but many others would also benefit from this sterling trait as she moved along her path in life. This strong-willed woman stressed good morals, encouraged her children to strive for the best in their chosen fields and emphasized individuality.

As her children began school, Kate became interested in the rural system. She was appalled by the fact that so few children from farm families were able to attend high school. Dairy farm youngsters could go to Lethbridge with the milk deliveries, but for the others, education ended at the Grade 8 level. Sne saw the need for a change and in 1928 succeeded in being elected to the local school board, much to the chagrin of some of her male opponents. However, after only a short time, her opposition found Kate and her positive philosophy contagious. Together they worked towards consolidating the rural school districts and providing better facilities and teacherages that would in turn attract teachers accredited to teach some high school. Kate was the first woman in Alberta to serve on a school board.

Having been instrumental in the evolution of rural education from the one-roomed school to the large consolidated unit, this indefatigable lady recognized the need for secondary education in Southern Alberta. Her aim became "education for everyone". She enlisted the aid of several interested persons: Allen Cullen Q.C., G.C. Patterson Q.C., Dr. Jim Cousins, L. Bussard, J. Robbins and T. Segsworth. After seven years of planning, on November 1, 1957, the Lethbridge Junior College held its first classes. In 1959 the sod turning ceremony took place and Kate was allowed by the city to pay the $ 1.00 charged for the property. To her fell the honor of being the first woman chairperson of the Lethbridge Community College, and in 1957 she was recognized as having served with distinction, the driving force behind the formation of the College.

The 1950's were significant years for Kate as honors were heaped upon her in recognition of her work. Buckingham Palace awarded her the Queen Elizabeth Coronation Medal for outstanding achievements in education. She was appointed to the Senate of the University of Alberta. She represented Southern Alberta on the Alberta School Trustees Association and was elected this organization's first woman President. Kate was the first woman to receive an honorary membership in the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. Another honorary membership came from Beta Sigma Phi. The Quota Club named her Woman of the Year because of her exemplary life as mother, wife and citizen. When the Kate Andrews High School in Coaldale, named after her, held its opening ceremonies in 1961, she attended with pride and presented the school with a piano.

On January 12, 1967, two weeks after her death, the Kate Andrews Building on the Lethbridge Community College was named after her as a tribute.

It is said that in order for one to have friends, it is necessary that one develop a genuine interest in other people, that it is the content of the heart that draws the affection and appreciation of others.

This adage certainly held true for Dr. Kate Andrews, who once stated, "I have never known a child I did not like. Tributes poured into the homes of her children from New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland, California, and Coaldale, moving testimony of the esteem she had fostered in the lives of those she had touched.

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Mary Tollestrup