Winona Lee Hawthorne Buck (1856-1935) was the only woman in the university's first graduating class of 1878. On June 20 of that year, eight students received degrees in a ceremony at Pike's Opera House, attended by a "large and cultured audience," according to local newspapers. Each graduate was required to read a baccalaureate essay intended to "grapple with social problems," and Hawthorne's essay was titled "A Plea for the Classics." The Cincinnati Enquirer described her as "a talented and highly cultured young lady," adding that "the reading of her very eloquent and masterly production was frequently interrupted by bursts of applause."
Born in the frontier town of Winona, Minn., Winona Hawthorne bears a name that honors the offspring of a Minnesota Indian chief and means "first-born daughter." When she was 5, her family returned to Northern Kentucky, where her mother had been raised and where her parents were married. After her college graduation, she enrolled as a post-graduate student and tutored in Latin and Greek. In 1881, she married an Army lieutenant named William Langdon Buck who graduated from West Point. By 1888, they had three children.