Women's Archery Team in 1972

Celebrating the women who paved the way

Gardner-Webb will honor several athletic team and alumni groups, for their achievements in athletics, leadership and philanthropy work, as a part of a year-long celebration of the anniversary.

Some of the women that will be highlighted are listed below:


She was an ardent supporter of the University, along with her husband, O. Max Gardner, the former governor of North Carolina and U.S. ambassador to Great Britain. Despite living in Raleigh, N.C., and Washington, D.C., the Gardners never forgot their hometown of Shelby and the junior college in Boiling Springs. Their devotion to the college was recognized in 1942, when the trustees voted to name the school, Gardner-Webb, after them.


Dean of Women 1909-1936, service award given at commencement named in her honor. While in retirement from 27 years of teaching, she wrote a check for all of her savings to rebuild Gardner-Webb’s Hamrick Hall, which had been destroyed by fire. Two years later she died a pauper by choice.


The University’s first female member of the senior staff and associate provost emerita. Upon her husband’s retirement from the Army after 21 years of active duty service, she started her full-time teaching career, 10 years at one college and then 18 years at Gardner-Webb. After retirement, the couple stayed in Boiling Springs, where they have lived for 30 years, longer than anywhere else.


Vice President of Student Development who worked at Gardner-Webb for nearly 40 years. Held several roles: professor, coach, administrator, dean, department chair and in many additional capacities


She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Gardner-Webb. She was elected as the youngest elected government official in the state of South Carolina and has served as councilwoman in her hometown of Chesnee, S.C., for the past 12 years.


She has held several positions at GWU, wife of Chuck Burch, currently the coordinator of the Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership Program


Wife of President William Downs. Mrs. Downs is a 1989 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Pharmacy and has three decades of experience as a practicing pharmacist. Since coming to Gardner-Webb, she has been active in community service and has started the Bulldog Pillowcase Ministry, which provides colorful pillowcases for children in the hospital.


Lisa Tucker, alumna, Board of Trustees member and benefactor, president of Shoe Show Inc. in Concord, N.C. She played Division 1 Volleyball at Gardner-Webb, and after graduating, continued to compete with the AVP, Association of Volleyball Professionals. She represented the United States on the Women’s USA Volleyball team.


Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Before coming to Gardner-Webb in 2022, she served as vice president for academic affairs and as a professor at LaGrange College. She has 30 years of experience in higher education, working since 2007 in administrative leadership positions. Additionally, she has extensive experience in accreditation procedures through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), including serving as a SACSCOC reviewer and presenter at annual meetings.


Head Women’s Basketball Coach. She joined the Gardner-Webb program in 2018. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have posted winning records in Big South play each season under Simmons, including a 13-5 mark and fourth-place finish in 2021-2022. That included a run to the semifinals of the 2022 Hercules Tires Big South Conference Championships, where the ‘Dogs took top-seed Campbell down the wire before falling 51-50.


Faculty Athletics Representative and professor in the School of Psychological Science and Counselor Education. She is the president of the N.C. Counseling Association and serves as coordinator for GWU Clinical Mental Health Counseling Programs. Webb is also a volunteer with the American Red Cross, providing counseling for the military community and serving as the Blue Ridge Piedmont Chapter Mental Health Lead, consisting of 12 counties.


One of the first African American students admitted to Gardner-Webb Junior College. While working her way through college, Joyce was a member of the Day Student Association, Secretary-Treasurer of the International Relations Club, a delegate to the Model United Nations Assembly, and reporter for The Pilot. (From the 1965 Anchor)


Gardner-Webb’s first distance learner. She battled polio as a child and as a result lived in an iron lung from the time she was 11-years-old until her death at age 71 in 2009. Mason never let the fact that she was limited physically inhibit her ability to learn. While at Gardner-Webb, she participated in her class via intercom, which allowed her to talk with her professors and fellow classmates. She graduated from Gardner-Webb in 1958 at the top of her class. After graduation, she continued her education at Wake Forest University. She also wrote a book, “Breath: Life in the Rhythm of an Iron Lung,” the story of her life. Mason was also the subject of the award- winning documentary, “Martha in Lattimore” by filmmaker Mary Dalton.


Associate Athletics Director, Senior Women’s Administrator. She joined the Gardner-Webb University family in 1980, and has been the backbone of the school’s athletics programs. Her role within the athletics program has directly benefited the personal growth—on and off the field—of numerous Gardner-Webb student-athletes.


First woman to serve on GWU board of trustees, appointed in 1933 and held every position on the board. She also served on the boards of Mars Hill College and Wake Forest University. When her husband died in 1930, she took over the business they started, Eagle’s Store in Kings Mountain, N.C., and with the profits became a benefactor for all three colleges and also a school in South America. Stroup Dorm at Gardner-Webb and Stroup Hall at Mars Hill are named for her.


Became paralyzed at age 17 after a car wreck. Gardner-Webb made accommodations for her to attend because she was in a wheelchair. Students nominated her for homecoming queen without her knowledge and she won. She’s been a national speaker, but now works as a teacher at a community college.


Professor emerita of English; instrumental in starting the University’s scholarly lecture series; Award winning poet.


Professor emerita of business administration, a GWU alumna who taught at Gardner-Webb for 42 years, author of more than 25 books, and her textbooks have been translated into several languages.


In 1983, Mrs. Noel established the Dr. George T. Noel Memorial Fund for Visually Impaired Students, the first such fund for students enrolled in Gardner- Webb’s program for the blind. She named the scholarship in memory of her late husband, who was an ophthalmologist in Kannapolis for nearly 30 years. A second major endowment provided permanent housing in a completely renovated facility and in 1986 the Noel House, which contains the University’s programs for handicapped students, was dedicated in honor of Mrs. Noel and in memory of her husband. She also made a generous donation to build Noel Hall, also named in memory of her husband.


Gardner-Webb Junior College head coach of the women’s basketball team from 1956-1959.


Gardner-Webb Senior College head coach of women’s basketball from 1975-1979. The team played its first game on November 18, 1975 and picked up their first win soon after, beating UNC Charlotte. After a 1-3 start, Littlefield’s team finished with a 7-7 record an went on to record winning records in each of the next three seasons – culminating with a 21-4 mark in 1978-1979.


First female student-athlete inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame IN 1991. She finished her basketball career as the top scorer in school history, scoring 2,031 career points and 874 career rebounds.


Joan Cline, the first women’s star player, played on the women’s basketball team of 1956-1959, under head coach Hester Haynes. She earned All-State honors twice during her time with the Bulldogs.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame IN1995. She scored 1,809 points and pulled down 873 rebounds in her basketball career.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2002. She finished her basketball career as the top scorer in school history, scoring 2,201 career points and 1220 career rebounds.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005. She finished her basketball career as one of the top-10 career scorers and rebounders. She scored 1,236 points and had 635 career rebounds.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. She finished her Soccer career as a program leader in points and goals served. She was a four-time All-South Atlantic Conference selection and two-time All-District selection.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. She finished her career as one of the the top female two-sport performers in school history. She was an All-South Atlantic Conference choice in both soccer and softball.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009. She finished her basketball career as a two-time All-South Atlantic Conference selection. She helped GWU to the 1995-1996 NCAA Division II National Tournament.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010. She finished her volleyball career with more than 800 kills and 400 blocks. She earned first-team All-SAC honors in 1996 and 1997.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. She led the volleyball team to SAC championships in 1997 and 1999. She was a two-time All-South Atlantic Conference selection.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. She was a two-time track & field NCAA Division II National Champion, a four-time NCAA Division II All-American and a 2002 A-Sun Cross Country Runner of the Year.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. She was a NCAA Division II National Champion, two-event NCAA Division II All-America and lead the swim team to a 14th place finish at 2000 NCAA Division II nationals.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014. She was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American in track & field, two-time NSCA Strength & Conditioning All-American, and two-time All-Atlantic Sun Conference in 2003.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015. She finished her four-year volleyball career with 115 wins and remains the program’s leader with 2,059 kills. She added 2,053 career digs and is the lone GWU student-athlete in the sport of volleyball to earn All-South Atlantic Conference honors three times.


One of the most decorated players in Gardner-Webb’s soccer history, she was inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016. She finished her four years as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 135 points – 20 points more than any other GWU performer. She scored 49 career goals, which is tied for the top mark in school history, and finished with a program-best 37 assists.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017. She finished her swimming career as one of the most successful student-athletes in program history – regardless of sport. She was named Northeast Conference (NEC) Most Outstanding Swimmer three times and won a combined 22 conference titles in her four seasons. She sparked Gardner-Webb to four NEC team championships in four seasons. She went on to become the first swimmer in school history to compete at U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018. She finished her career as one of the most decorated swimmers in program history. She won 12 individual NEC and Southern States Conference titles, set three Gardner-Webb records and posted an NCAA “B” qualifying time in the 400 IM. Her contributions helped GWU post three consecutive conference championships in the NEC. She also earned the GWU Senior Scholastic Award with a 4.0 GPA and remains one of the pioneers of Gardner-Webb’s success in the sport of swimming.


Inducted into the Gardner-Webb Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019. She spent time with Gardner-Webb’s volleyball program as part of her two-sport career in Boiling Springs, but it was her excellence with the GWU track & field program that turned heads. Maxwell Knippen finished her career as one of the most honored and decorated throwers in program history. She earned All-Atlantic Sun Conference honors 12 times and finished her career with five school records to her credit.

Linda Cody Shelton

A pioneer in women’s basketball at GW and was one of the first women to compete in the 1970s when Title IX opened up opportunities for female athletes. She and her husband, Terry, have gone on to own and operate several Chick-fil-A restaurants in the Charlotte region.

Dr. Sophia Steibel

Gardner-Webb professor and the first School of Divinity faculty member to serve as the Bonnie Price Chair for Christian Formation and Leadership. Steibel earned her Bachelor of Arts from Gardner-Webb. She received her Master of Arts in religious education and her Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. She joined the Gardner-Webb School of Divinity faculty in 2001. Before then, she was an associate professor of religious education at Gardner-Webb. Steibel is the former director of Campinas Baptist Theological College, Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Additionally, she served on the faculties of South Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary and Baptist Religious Education Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is active in the life of First Baptist Church of Shelby, N.C.