Featured image for post: Women’s History Month: Sarah Bain Ward Left a Lasting Legacy

Women’s History Month: Sarah Bain Ward Left a Lasting Legacy

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

by Dr. Sarah Bain Ward

(Dr. Ward shared this narrative as the featured speaker at the 1980 spring Alumni Awards Luncheon, where she was honored as the 1980 Alumna of the Year. The narrative was later published in the spring 1980 edition of the ACC Scope magazine.)

On September 3, 1902, a brand new educational institution opened its doors for the first time.  It was called Atlantic Christian College.  A young Martin County boy, George Roberson Ward, was among the first students to enroll.  Since there were only facilities for young ladies on campus, the male students were housed in homes near the campus.

Thirty-two years later, George’s daughter arrived on the same campus to begin a long and beloved association with the institution!

Little did she realize that she would spend 40 years on that block of earth that was knee-high in peas when she arrived over half the entire life of the 78-year-old school.

I don’t like to make speeches, but oh, how I love to reminisce and recall fond memories!

When I was a freshman, Dr. H.S. Hilley was president, Mrs. Yavorski was Dean of Women, Mildred Ross lived in Junior Hall with 12 or 15 upper-class women. There were two buildings on campus.  The Girls’ Dorm, which also housed the classrooms, library (in a lovely oval room), dining room, post office, “Y” store, and parlors and biology labs, and the Men’s Dorm, which housed the President’s office, Bookkeeper’s office, Chemistry Lab, and Mr. Waters’ office!

Now there was a character — he taught, raised money, helped with endowment, but most of all, he will be remembered for his classroom sermons!  The one I remembered most was on “radiator courtships,” referring to a habit we students had of gathering around the hall radiators to warm, while really talking with the boys, since boys and girls could talk with each other during the day— only at stated hours and at meals!  Students even had separate library rooms — girls upstairs, boys downstairs.  They kept the student assistant busy with notes (of course, in books) up and down the library steps.   It cost $305 for room, board, and tuition, and I made $75 by keeping the halls clean on second and third floors.  During the depression, kids came to school on a barter system — brought cows, fish, potatoes, etc.  You noticed, I suppose, that I did not call the buildings “Kinsey” and “Caldwell” because they had no such names at this time!  Some of us got together later and started called these buildings by these names and they stuck!  The college motto, adopted in 1923, came from John 8:12 — “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

During 1936-37, Milton Adams served as the first president of the newly formed “Cooperative Association’ — instead of “student” government, it was “campus” government, and the next year, I succeeded him as president.  During these four years, we had a new gym (first one) plus a new dining room and central heating system.  Also, during this time, the old chapel was condemned, and teams of students were sent out on weekends to raise money for a new chapel.  The only time I was campused — I was riding with Grif Hamlin.  I was president of the student body, Grif was president of the Ministerial Association, and with us were Eugene Ogrodowski, and Gail Mitchell.  We rode over to Kinston on Sunday afternoon without permission.  Nobody knew what to do with us, so President Hilley had to handle the case.

I graduated in 1938 and taught math and science in the Selma High School.  During the Christmas vacation of 1943, Dr. Hilley called to tell me that his Dean of Women (Eva Mae Whitley) had just called to tell him that she was getting married in June, so he would be needing a new dean.  Would I be interested?  Well, no, not really.  So he told me to think it over and let him hear from me the first of February.   Well, you know a lot of the rest — I came back to the college as Dean of Women.  My principal told me that I’d be another “Miss Fanny.”  In case you don’t know, Miss Fanny and Miss Myrtie were the two old maid daughters of the second president, Dr. J.J. Harper.  They were math teacher and librarian, respectively, who devoted their entire lives to the college and were well-known college “characters!”

So, in the fall of 1944, I started my 36-year career as Dean of Women!  Beth Rose Joyner, J.P. Tyndall, Caroline Cowell, Vera Lofton, Dot Green, Mary Jeanette, Aileen Reel, and lots of others were also here!

Let me tell you how it was!

  • Women dated only on the weekends
  • Certain number of weekends per month
  • Could not ride in a car unless with a chaperone
  • Lined up and went to church together
  • Unless you went to Morning Worship, you couldn’t date that afternoon or evening
  • Quiet hours from 1-3 every Sunday afternoon — was checked
  • 11:00 curfew – Lights out
  • Bell rang to get up, study hours, bedtime, end of dates, etc. (I rang the original hand bell)
  • Required chapel three times a week – checked
  • Senior women could serve as chaperones and get in free at the movies with three or more charges!


Our archrival was ECTC with the old “Bohunkus Bucket!”  It now resides in our trophy case.  This is where our first student center got its name, “The Bohunk.”  We had one or two faculty in most departments!  There were no faculty offices or telephones — classes were on the first floor and the women lived on the second and third!  Women lived in Caldwell because the men were nearly all away at war.

But buildings do not a college make!  We had fun, and there was some good teaching going on!  Just take a look at our graduates!  Teachers and students make an institution — not buildings.

We started little by little changing the rules, and then the veterans arrived on campus!  Such a change — Football, Mother Horton, Doc Hardy, Howard Chapel, Sybil Barrett, “Stinkey” Poole. Beautiful bouquets of flowers for the Dean of Women that turned out to be from the cemetery — Eh — Bob (Clark)?  There were veterans that couldn’t sit still in class for 50 minutes.  They had to get up and walk the halls!  An old barracks, located down about where the gym is now, housed the returning men and was known as Murray Hall.  (Dean of Men then was Leslie Murray).  Dr. Hilley was in a terrible automobile wreck — unconscious for months and finally had to retire.  Four of us were appointed by the Trustees to run the college until an ad-interim president was appointed — Cecil Jarman.

While Dr. Jarman was acting president, we finished the first new dormitory since 1911 — and in the spring of 1950, the women kept thinking they would move into the new building — they were put off and put off.  Finally, in May 1950, three weeks before school was out, we moved into Harper Hall; walked all the girls’ belongings over; girls cleaned the windows — Big Event!  And I bought my first car — one month before we moved in.  I couldn’t even drive it home.  They called me “Mildred Jr.”  Those of you who knew Mildred Ross and her driving habits will understand.  I had a new car and a new dorm!  How very proud we were!  If you notice, in Harper Hall, there are still little brass plaques up on each door telling who gave the room and in whose memory!  Ladies of First Christian Church furnished the Parlor, one of the sororities gave the refrigerator for the student kitchen.  I’ll never forget the look on Cecil Jarman’s face when we took down the big signs we had up in the building directing the visitors when we had a guided tour of the building before we moved in.  Everywhere that scotch tape touched the wall, the brand-new green paint came off, and we hadn’t even moved in!

We used only the main floor and second floor.  The infirmary was on the ground floor.

About this time, we had a new president for the first time in 30 some years, Dr. D. Ray Lindley.  Caldwell went back to the men!

We lost our Dean of Men, so Dr. Lindley appointed me Dean of Students so I could look after both men and women (although in those days we said boys and girls).  J.P. Tyndall lived in Caldwell with the boys and would go down to the jail with me when I had to go at night — you know, boys would be boys even then, and girls would be girls, too!

I must pause to let you know that verbal history would not be half-way complete without telling you that “being a Harper Hall woman” had connotations that I still am proud to have instilled in some of our girls.  Even Nan Mattox and Mickey Raynor.  I still don’t know how they managed to graduate…

To be a “Harper Hall woman” meant, among other things, that you didn’t call out the windows, you didn’t walk with a cigarette in your hand or mouth, you let a young man call for you at the desk, and walk you back to the door upon returning!  You sat properly, dressed appropriately — you tried to be a lady!

Our rules were beginning to relax, but females still could not wear shorts to class!  So, one fine morning, Mamie Davis and some of her cohorts went to class in shorts!  I was told almost immediately!  I didn’t say a word, didn’t call them in, but, that night we had a dorm meeting in the Rec. Room of Harper Hal, and I let them all gather and the president call roll and then Rebecca Tomlinson, Assistant Dean of Women, and I walked in dressed in shorts, tennis shoes, hair down, and I just told them that if they had the right to go dressed to class in shorts, then I had the right to wear them when I met their parents, etc.!  That was all that was said.  It was years later, before we really got permission to wear them at any time or place!

During all this time, we are family style in Hardy Dining Hall!  I served as official hostess, and each table had an assigned student host and hostess!  I was responsible for the blessing and announcements. No one could leave their table at night until I rose and gave a signal that they were dismissed.  Then in 1954, we went to cafeteria style, mainly because we had grown so much we had to eat in shifts to accommodate the numbers.  Mrs. Gray came in 1955.

The old Phi Kap Fraternity moved in across from Harper Hall and therein lies a whole chapter!

Also, Tweetie Etheridge had a small soda shop directly in front of Harper.  We even soon had a “Tweetie Break” listed in our house rules!  I often referred to Tweetie as the Assistant Dean of Women because he surely knew what was going on! At 9:30 every night when the bell rang, you better get out of the way or you got trampled — ask Olivia Philyaw Tyndall about this.

All this time, dancing was forbidden.  Dr. Hartsock and I wrote more speeches for the students when they would appear before the Trustees to plead for dancing!  Finally in 1951, we were allowed to dance “off-campus” but not “on-campus!”  But in a few years, we were allowed to dance on-campus and some of us worked to get a dancing teacher so our students would know correct ballroom dancing.  Gene Barnes was hired, and we even had classes at night in the Rec. Room of Harper of the Faculty!  Even Bob Hollar took classes with us!

One of my most embarrassing moments was a big formal dance in the Cherry Hotel ballroom, and as I was doing a waltz turn with J.P. Tyndall, I slid down and went sailing across the floor on you know what!

Everything and everybody had to have chaperones! Heavens — I wish I had a dollar for every event I’ve ever chaperoned — I could pay for my trip to Germany next October!

The first Saturday in May was a memorable time!  May Day – with May Queen and King.  Milton Adams was May King in 1937.  The whole campus was involved, and they were very elaborately done.  Literally thousands of people attended. One year it rained, and they let us have it on Sunday.  Dancing on Sunday?  But after that we usually had it on Sunday — it got to be so expensive and took up so much of the P.E. Department’s time, that it was cancelled!

When I arrived in 1944, we did not own one single piece of equipment for putting on big socials!  I had to borrow the punch bowl form Churchwell’s, cups from here and there and everywhere else we could get them.  We obtained silver from all over town.  I well remember going around and picking up these things with J.P. Tyndall driving the college car, me running in the houses picking them up, and Kat Lewis sitting on the back seat polishing silver.  We’d joke and kid each other about what we could say if we had an accident!  “And what were you doing at the time of the accident, Miss Lewis? Sitting in the back seat polishing silver!”

I soon made up my mind that one of my major projects would be to collect enough party things that we didn’t have to borrow!  So, I started with the Entertainment Committee, and, each year for years, the students let me spend what was left over in the budget on party equipment.  There were also gifts from organizations.  Our first silver punch bowl was a gift from four women at First Christian Church who put on a civic club dinner and took their profits for the Easter Bunny to bring up the grape punch bowl.  The next year, they gave the tray.

And, of course, every March, as the sap started rising, I had to lecture to my Harper Hall women about the birds and the bees!  Enough about that!

One other thing we always did was to make every girl learn the Alma Mater, which, by the way, was written by Martha Edmonston in 1934, before they were allowed their first weekend off campus.  The Alma Mater was used the first time at the 1934 Commencement!

Well, things were progressing!  We tried our new rules in summer school and then slipped them in [during] the fall.

We had Travis While as president following Dr Lindley.  We received our Southern Association Accreditation while Dr. James Moudy was here.  We had lots of student body presidents.  We had Billy Tucker, Jim Hemby, Chuck Hester, David Blackwood, and, in 1965-66, the Cooperative Association gave way to the SGA while David Webb was student body president.

We had buildings, more students, more Deans of Men, a full-time Dean of Students, and I was allowed to move off campus after 17 years in the dormitory!  Then Jessie Daniel entered our loves! Oh! What a blessing!

All the upheavals of the 1960’s – my oh my – no dress code, long hair, bare feet, belly buttons showing, “Bald Eagle” didn’t go home!  Things were changing.

But alas, in 1974, HEW told us that we had been cited for unfair practices with the male and female students.  So, all of a sudden, we had to have one “Code of Living” for both men and women.  My, how we did work:

         -No signing in or out

         -Unlimited hours (go and come as you please) or self-regulating hours!

         -Paid R.A.’s on every floor, etc.  You know, I’ll be the first to say that my women handled the situation very maturely, only a few abused the privileges!

         -More and more emphasis was placed on security.

The nursing program was added to the curriculum!  We saw uniforms all over campus.  For the first time, the proportion of male and female students started to change. There were more women students.

Oh, there’s so much to tell.  I can’t even begin to tell it all – such as:

         -Alethian and Hesperian Literary Societies

         -Delta Sigma Phi, first to go national

         -All the music and drama

         -Religious Emphasis Weeks (Bob Clark did one of the best ever put on)

         -New Student center with new dining room

         -Paved parking lots

         -Death of President Wenger

         -Lost student body president

         -New college president


I’ve held nearly every job on campus except librarian and business manager.

I’ve been:

         -A Student

         -A Janitor

         -A President, Student Body

         -Helped raise money

         -An Alumnus

         -President, Alumni Association

         -Member, Board of Trustees

         -Dean of Women

         -Dean of Students



         -One-Fourth President

         -Yard Person


         -And suddenly realizing that I had been here more than 36 years and should leave while I was in good standing!

I learned a long time ago, not to be a prophet.  The future will depend on political, economic and social patterns that are not yet certain.  Whatever they are, colleges will be mirrors of society, even as they strive to change it.


Hail, thou our Mother,

Dearly we cherish

Thy name enthroned

Victorious and free

Thy tender memories

Never shall perish

Hail, Alma Mater

All hail to three!