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Watertown woman to become president of New York State P.E.O. ‘sisterhood’

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WATERTOWN — A city woman will become the president of the New York State chapter of Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) in June.

Beth A. Linderman will be installed at the 86th annual state P.E.O. convention in Albany.

In 2009, Ms. Linderman was elected a state officer for the P.E.O., becoming the first P.E.O. member from Watertown to be nominated for a state office. Beginning as recording secretary for the 2009-10 year, Ms. Linderman advanced yearly in officer positions.

P.E.O. was founded in 1869 by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Originally a small campus friendship society, P.E.O. soon blossomed to include women off campus.

The organization is an international philanthropic educational organization with more than 350,000 members in the United States and Canada. There are 80 chapters, with a membership of 2,400 in New York State. Watertown has two P.E.O. chapters, the only ones north of Syracuse.

Chapter AI in Watertown is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. It was founded April 30, 1949, by June Selby who was an elementary supervisor in Watertown city schools from 1943 to 1961.

Ms. Linderman, a clinical social worker, founded local P.E.O. chapter CP two years ago.

“Chapter AI had gotten so large that it was kind of limiting itself,” Ms. Linderman said. “By organizing a new chapter, we were able to invite more women to be involved.”

She said the CP chapter has 19 members. The AI chapter has approximately 43 members. Membership to P.E. O. is by invitation.

The “sisterhood” organization promotes the advancement of women through education, scholarships, grants, awards and loans.

P.E.O. also operates Cottey College in Nevada, Mo., a fully accredited, private liberal arts and sciences college for women founded in 1884. P.E.O. accepted the college as a gift in 1927.

Ms. Linderman said that, of the monetary awards the P.E.O. distributes, one scholarship is given to women whose educations have been interrupted. North country women have benefited from this assistance, she said, including students who sought to pursue social work.

“Only recently has there been some affiliations with JCC,” Ms. Linderman said of options for students pursuing social work. “Before, you usually had to go down to Syracuse University, which is extraordinarily expensive, and you have expenses like driving as well.”

To be eligible for a P.E.O. grant or loan, women need to be sponsored by a chapter of the organization.

Students don’t need to be a P.E.O member to be eligible but they need to be at least 18 years old, Ms. Linderman said.

One of her jobs as state P.E.O. president, Ms. Linderman said, will be visiting chapters around the state to help them nurture their goals. She also will act as a liaison between the state chapters and the national organization, based in Iowa.

Mr. Linderman said it’s not unusual for a community to have two P.E.O. organizations, noting there are five chapters in Syracuse and approximately eight in the Rochester area.

The two Watertown P.E.O. chapters will co-sponsor a rummage sale on Saturday, June 14, to raise money for educational opportunities for women.

The chapters plan to release details on the sale later this spring.

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