The first two volumes of “The Magnanimous Miss Dimmitt” were featured in the Spring and Fall 2023 issues of The Morningsider, available online at

Throughout the 1930s, Miss Dimmitt continued to teach, lead, travel, and connect with her students. Upon retiring as the dean of women in 1941, she was honored as emeritus dean, yet she elected to continue her part-time teaching duties and campus residency until her final days.

It was during this period that Miss Dimmitt extended offers to selected Morningside men to reside in her home and support her when required. To be one of “Miss Dimmitt’s boys” was a respected privilege. One alumnus fondly recalled to The Collegian Reporter in 1965, “It is difficult to describe the feelings one has about and for such a person as Miss Dimmitt but having had the privilege of being one of ‘her boys’ as she called us, I know that each and every one of us held only the deepest love and respect for her. She was more than a landlady. She became our own ‘Miss Dimmitt,’ a friend, counselor, teacher, confidant, and a sort of part-time grandmother.”

Indeed, Miss Dimmitt’s home was as much a part of Morningside as she was. She kept a guest book by the front door so that all who entered were asked to sign her book. The book became a living testament to her connection to every Morningside graduate, and served as a memory book for her. Miss Dimmitt frequently reviewed her guest registries, along with all her grade books, to remember and stay connected to her many students. Miss Dimmitt’s commitment to diligent record-keeping became so legendary that alumni would often jest they wished she would dispose of her records because they sometimes chronicled academic struggles and occasional misdemeanors. Nevertheless, Miss Dimmitt faithfully protected the privacy of her students, ensuring that only she reviewed the grade books.

As part of her record-keeping processes, Miss Dimmitt was also well-known for frequent correspondence with her former students, regularly sending personal notes and news clippings that she happened upon. Both the Morningside University Archives and many articles referencing Miss Dimmitt provide evidence of the hundreds if not thousands of cards, letters, and notes she sent to students over the years to maintain her connection to them. Miss Dimmitt took the relationships she built seriously, and she made every effort to maintain those relationships regardless of time or distance.

Miss Dimmitt’s profound relationships and enduring connections not only bolstered Morningside’s success but also brought her personal recognition. In January 1956, alumni Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Eerkes underwrote a contract with the artist Rolf Stoll to paint a portrait of Lillian E. Dimmitt to be hung in the drawing room of Dimmitt Hall. The Eerkes were 1924 graduates of Morningside and wanted to find a way to honor Miss Dimmitt’s legacy. Miss Dimmitt was overwhelmed and honored by the experience, going so far as to extensively document the experience through writing.

In the story that now lives in the Morningside University archives, Miss Dimmitt describes inviting her niece, Frances Jingle, to accompany her on the trip and assist her with preparations. Miss Dimmitt had never flown before, and she also wrote that she had been quite concerned about finding a dress that was right for a portrait that would outlast herself. In the end, her fears were for not. The experience of flying was one that she found most enjoyable, and she also discovered that the artist Mr. Stoll was fully prepared to assist in making sure her portrait was the best it could be. 

In her writing, the 89-year-old Miss Dimmitt recounted that at one point she had remarked to Mr. Stoll that he probably wished she were younger and more beautiful. She said he responded by saying, “I’m going to answer that with a no. The conversation of a debutante has nothing inspiring to it. She wants to be sure to get the real length of her eye lashes, and eyelashes do not furnish an interesting subject of conversations.” The portrait was completed later that same year and revealed at a special ceremony at Morningside in June 1956. It remains a fixture on campus as of 2023.

While the portrait was certainly a wonderful acknowledgement of Miss Dimmitt’s legacy, it was not the only honor she received after her retirement. In 1948, Miss Dimmitt became the first recipient of the Woman of Achievement award in the Sioux City Journal. She was also named an “Honored Woman” of the Sioux City Business and Professional Women’s Club, was anonymously memorialized in the headquarters building of the Iowa Educational Association and was also publicly honored by the Delta Kappa Gamma Mu chapter.

Upon reaching 65 years of service to Morningside in 1959, Miss Dimmitt received a special commendation at Morningside commencement from the Iowa Methodist conference bishop for her years of service to Christian education. In recognition of this achievement, U.S. President Dwight E. Eisenhower sent his personal well-wishes via telegram to Miss Dimmitt, writing, “Through Congressman Charles B. Hoeven, I have learned that Miss Lillian E. Dimmitt, dean of women emeritus at Morningside College, will be honored at your commencement exercises on Monday. I understand that Miss Dimmitt has completed 65 years of service on the Morningside campus. During this remarkable career she has strengthened the lives of a host of students and by her devoted example she has advanced the highest traditions of the college. Please give my congratulations and best wishes to her and the class of 1959.” The occasion and telegram earned national media attention, with many noting that the 92-year-old Miss Dimmitt appeared to be one of the longest-serving educators to a single institution in the history of the United States.

Miss Dimmitt would go on to add another six years to her Morningside service, continuing to teach part-time and mentoring students from her home on the Morningside campus. She only stopped living and working at Morningside a few months before her death on Sept. 11, 1965, when she had to be moved to Sunrise Manor due to her declining health. Following her death, news spread and mourners from across the country and around the world paid their respects to the woman who had seen Morningside College rise from the dust of University of the Northwest, helping it grow from a mere handful of students to more than 1,000.

Nearly 60 years later, Miss Dimmitt remains one of the most revered names in Morningside history. The Dimmitt Scholars program now honors full-time students who have completed at least 45 credits of college work with a cumulative grade point average between 3.50 and 3.75. The Dimmitt Fellowship on campus invites scholars to campus to complete a residency and work with Morningside students. Dimmitt Hall continues to be the largest residence hall on campus, housing both men and women. Miss Dimmitt’s former residence was purchased by Morningside and dedicated as the Lillian E. Dimmitt Alumni House on Oct. 21, 1983. Most recently, the Connie Wimer Women’s Leadership group on campus brought back the tradition of the Dimmitt Tea and will be awarding the inaugural Lillian Dimmitt Excellence in Women’s Leadership Award this spring.

While Miss Dimmitt’s name and title may not have been visibly connected with or fully captured the full breadth of the work she did on behalf of campus, Miss Dimmitt’s character and relationships with students, alumni, and colleagues tell a much richer story of her contributions to Morningside. Miss Dimmitt truly built a legacy through the lives she touched that has lived on for new generations of Morningsiders to know and celebrate. She is more than a memory. Miss Dimmitt is a living presence in this special place known as Morningside University.