Zeta Tau Alpha is saddened by the passing of Bertie Grace
Ross McConnell, who became a member of Alpha Mu Chapter at Washburn University
in Topeka, Kan., on Dec. 4, 2011, at the age of 90. Bertie passed away,
Tuesday, Feb. 21, in Lawrence, Kan.
Her memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Monday, Feb.
27, at Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence. Members of Alpha Mu Chapter
will speak on behalf of ZTA. Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery in
Lawrence. Bertie will also be remembered
at Memorial Service during Zeta Tau Alpha’s International Convention in
Louisville, Ky., this coming June.
Bertie’s family would like establish a scholarship in her
memory through the ZTA Foundation. The Bertie Grace McConnell Memorial
Recognition Scholarship will be awarded to an early childhood education major
from Alpha Mu Chapter. Bertie’s daughter, Dr. Judith (Judy) McConnell-Farmer,
is the Interim Chair and Professor in the Department of Education at Washburn.
Those wishing to contribute to the scholarship fund may do so online. Please indicate
in the Special Instructions box that the gift is for the Bertie Grace McConnell
Memorial Recognition Scholarship. Or you may mail the donation to the ZTA
Foundation, 3450 Founders Road, Indianapolis, IN 46268, and indicate the
scholarship on the memo line of your check.
The story of Bertie and her daughter’s hope for an
unforgettable 90th birthday gift made national news last fall. Bertie
had received a bid to pledge ZTA at Washburn in 1941, but she couldn’t accept
because her family could not afford the dues. Bertie hoped to save up and join
the next semester, but she did not return to school when World War II erupted.
Many years later, Judy joined the faculty of Washburn University and would
bring her mother to campus. Bertie would see the ZTA house and tell her
daughter, “You know, Judy, my one regret is that I never became a member of
Zeta Tau Alpha.”
For Bertie’s 90th birthday, Judy hoped to surprise her
mother with a card from the Zetas. Instead Alpha Mu Chapter asked National
Council to consider offering Bertie the opportunity to become a member of
ZTA—at age 90—and National Council agreed. Alpha Mu president Paige Martin went
to the birthday party to give Bertie a bid on October 15, 2011, ZTA’s 113th Founders’
The local newspaper ran the story of Bertie’s ZTA birthday
surprise ran and then it spread to over 200 newspaper websites across the
country. Anderson Cooper sent a television crew to Topeka on Oct. 27 to
interview Bertie, Judy and the ZTA chapter. The story ran on Anderson’s daytime
talk show on Nov. 3. Bertie was formally pledged and initiated into ZTA on Dec.
4 at the Alpha Mu Chapter house and she received an emerald badge as a gift
from National Council. You
can read the fully story of Bertie and ZTA in the winter issue of Themis.
Bertie was born on Oct. 15, 1921, in St. Louis, Mo., the
daughter of Bertis and Grace Ella Stone Ross. She grew up in Topeka and moved to
Lawrence in 1942. She was employed in the Personnel Department of Hercules
Powder Company during World War II. She married Donald McConnell, May 22, 1944,
in Lincoln, Neb. Don preceded her in death on Nov. 5, 2006.
She is survived by her daughter, Judy, and her husband,
Weymouth, of Topeka; and her son, Donald (Chip) McConnell, Jr. of Lawrence and
his wife, Connie, of Lawrence. She was preceded in death a son, Craig, in 1986.
She had six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.