Making a Big Impression
Picture this: A young girl, Neola Waller, sits on the front row of a one-room schoolhouse in rural Oklahoma. The room is full of children of all ages, up to 8th grade. Neola and the other first-graders in the front of the room are being taught their A, B, C’s. But it’s what the older children are learning in the back that grabs her attention.
The subject of the afternoon is history—specifically the Declaration of Independence. When the teacher says, “All men are created equal,” these words make a big impression on Neola. So much so that she runs home and immediately asks her mother, “If all men are created equal, what about the women?”
A LEADER IS BORN
“As you can see,” laughed Neola as she recounted this story, “I was an advocate for women from the very beginning!” Neola has made—and continues to make—a big impact on AAUW, both with her leadership and her generosity.
After graduating from Oklahoma State University with degrees in mathematics and sociology, Neola married a career naval officer and frequently moved around the country until they settled in Virginia Beach, VA. Neola’s accomplished career was spent teaching high school mathematics at the same Virginia Beach school for 30 years.
“I was the AP Calculus teacher and a reader for the College Board,” she said. During that time she earned her master’s degree in the teaching of science from the College of William & Mary. Neola was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in geometry at Princeton and Virginia Secondary Math Teacher of the Year.
Once her children went off to college, Neola fulfilled her long-time goal to join AAUW. A member of the Virginia Beach branch for over 40 years, Neola has been active at the state and national level. “I love the opportunities AAUW gives its members to develop through leadership and service. My closest friends are fellow members and AAUW staff.”
She’s been the Branch and State President, held many other offices and is a member of the State Board. She has also served on the AAUW Educational Foundation Board and wrote the history of the Educational Foundation.
Her work was so well received that she is currently writing the history of the most recent 40 years of AAUW Virginia. “I’m down to the last decade,” she said.
One of Neola’s proudest moments came as State President when she spearheaded Virginia’s Diamond Donor Project. “Calling on our generous members all over the state, we raised $78,000 in less than 18 months in honor of AAUW Virginia’s 75th anniversary. With this gift, we were able to fund the AAUW Educational Foundation research which ultimately produced The Third Shift: Women Learning Online,” she said.
A favorite leadership position she now holds is as the National Legacy Circle Chair for Virginia. “I enjoy visiting other branches. I have learned so much from the AAUW staff—I’m fearless when asking for gifts! I enjoy showing others how they can give and what the benefits are to them and to AAUW.”
JOINING THE LEGACY CIRCLE
Neola is a member of the Legacy Circle herself by including AAUW National in her will. “I believe in AAUW. This is the AAUW of today—lobbying to get bills passed to support laws protecting women, funding research to enhance women’s educational opportunities, creating service projects to benefit women in our communities. Our future is bright because of our leadership and the generosity of our members.”
Fearless leader, dedicated member, dear friend, and tireless advocate for women. AAUW is blessed to have Neola Waller as one of our own!