Class of ’64 gives back to WSSU

Class of ’64 gives back to WSSU
October 23
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  Chancellor Donald Reaves accepts a check from Hullda Hopewell.)

There were hugs, kisses and gasps of excitement last Thursday night at the Ramada Plaza Hotel.
The Winston-Salem State University Class of 1964 converged there to celebrate their 50th class reunion. The event coincided with WSSU’s annual Homecoming activities.DSC_0001

Members of the class, who are now in their 70s, took a walk down memory lane. When they matriculated, Winston-Salem State was still Winston-Salem Teachers College and a mere shadow of the sprawling campus it is today.

Norma Rawlings said that she barley recognized the campus when she saw it last week for the first time since the 1970s. Fifty years ago, she left the school with a nursing degree; it enabled her to teach at nursing schools throughout the country.

Norma Rawlings

Norma Rawlings

“I am just so proud of everyone and all the things that they’ve accomplished in Winston-Salem,” she said. “To see my old classmates, and to even correspond in the preparation of this whole event, has been wonderful. I am overjoyed.”

The Steering Committee, headed by Mary Gill, had been working on the reunion, which was themed “Reflect, Rejoice and Renew,” for the past few years. James McNeal, who worked on the Correspondence Committee from his home in Detroit, said that it was hard work getting in touch with classmates.



“The planning began in 2011 with a few classmates hanging out on campus after the game. Of course, we started reminiscing about our times at college,” McNeal said. “In November 2011, we sent the first letter about the reunion out to addresses we had.”

But there were many names of class members that no one could recall, and the means to contact some were none existent. He helped to develop a directory and make contact with as many people as possible.

“A lot of people had nicknames on campus and there were a lot of people I didn’t know,” he said. “One of the most difficult things about trying to get in touch with classmates was that a lot of the women had gotten married, so you have this list of names and you don’t know who many of them are. It was also sad finding so many classmates that have passed.”

In all, about 40 members of the class attended the reunion.

The class presented Chancellor Donald Reaves with a $55,000 check for the school’s scholarship fund. Reaves put the class’ graduation year into perspective, recalling that 1964 was the year that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received the Noble Prize; Sidney Poitier made history by winning a Best Actor Oscar; Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali; and Nelson Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island.
“While this and a lot more was taking place across the nation, you were about to embark upon the next major phase of your young lives. You were departing to serve,” Reaves said. “No doubt that just as the nation was coming to terms with its identity, you, too, were trying to discover who you were and what you wanted to do next.”

Reaves said that he has faced the same problems that former WSSU President Kenneth R. Williams dealt with when he ran the school from 1961 through 1977.

“Students are dealing with the rapidly raising cost of education,” he said. “Over the last five years, the budget at Winston-Salem State University has been cut by about $35 million, and each year we ask the legislature and the Board of Governors for more money, and we get less than what we need. That is certainly not new. I went back and I checked the records. I found that Dr. Williams had requested $137,574 in state funding for the 1963-1964 academic year, and he received $72,500. Not a lot has changed.”

McNeal said he hoped the class’ donation helps.

“The state funding is being reduced, so these youngsters need the money,” he said. “Somebody helped me when I was in school, and I think that we have to reach back to help them.”

Members of the class spent several hours in banquet hall, eating, listening to Dollye Mack and the Ensemble perform and catching up on a half-century of news and happenings.

An ensemble of class members are led by Dollye Mack.

An ensemble of class members are led by Dollye Mack.

Eleanor Dalton Williams

Eleanor Dalton Williams

Eleanor Dalton Williams of Moorisville enjoyed every moment of it.

“There were a lot of faces I recognized but I couldn’t remember all the names … (but) I am excited to be a part of this 50-year reunion. Just glad that God has granted me the time and the years to be here,” she said.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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