category: Faculty Emeriti - In Honor Of

Darlene J. Gravett

Associate Provost Emerita

Darlene J. Gravett

When Dr. Darlene J. Gravett came to Gardner-Webb in August 1989, she joined the faculty as Professor of English. When she retired in 2007, she retired as Associate Provost for Schools. Widely respected for her leadership abilities as Associate Provost, Gravett became the first female to serve on the University’s senior staff. In this position, she oversaw the University’s increasing number of schools, including the Graduate School and the schools of divinity, business, education, nursing, and psychology and counseling.

In an article in the Summer 2007 edition of “The Webb,”colleague and friend Dr. Gayle Price referred to Gravett as a “trailblazer for women in higher education,” adding that Gravett “has a generous heart and works hard at taking care of people in many ways that people never know about…I’ve learned a lot about that kind of leadership from watching her over the years.”

The daughter of a U.S. Army sergeant and the wife of an Army officer, Gravett arrived at Gardner-Webb after a lifetime of traveling and living in several states and two other countries, Panama and Germany. The Gravetts have lived in Boiling Springs for more than 30 years, the longest Darlene has lived anywhere.

She is the oldest of three children, born Aug. 19, 1937, in Roanoke, Va., to Arthur W. and Nadine Smith Johnson. After attending five high schools in three different states and Panama, Gravett graduated from Elizabethtown High School, Ky., in 1955. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Eastern Kentucky in 1959. In 1966, she earned her Master of Education in Secondary Education and English from the University of Miami. And in 1979, she earned her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her dissertation on British literature of 17th and 18th centuries was published in book form in 1987.

After she married Ray Gravett, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, she taught part time as she followed her husband from one place to another. After his retirement from the Army, she taught full time at the college level for 28 years. Over the years, she developed a stellar reputation as a master teacher.

She has also published articles and made numerous presentations on literature and methods of teaching English at professional conferences and to community groups. Of her teaching career, Gravett says, “Teaching was a great experience for me. It is the fun part of academia…I always enjoyed the exchange with students. And it has been such a joy to see students go on and build careers and know that you have helped them in that effort.”

After her retirement Gravett worked on various writing projects. She edited “Memories of the Broad River: Oral Histories as Told to Joe DePriest,” published in 2010 by the Broad River Council. In addition, she wrote a book about her life titled “Army Brat, Army Bride, Civilian: A Life,” published in 2013. She has also served as a valuable resource for the Gardner-Webb Communications staff in multiple editions of the faculty emeriti book, serving as a writer and assistant editor.

The recognition that Gravett has earned as a trailblazer and as a respected leader extends beyond the University to the Town of Boiling Springs, N.C., and to the larger community. She was the first woman elected to the Boiling Springs Town Council and was re-elected to that position three times. She is a past president and active member of the Boiling Springs Area Rotary Club, where she earned the prestigious Presidential Citation and is a Paul Harris Fellow.

Gravett has provided key leadership to several countywide initiatives. She served as president of the Broad River Greenway Council and as co-chair of the Oral History Program for the Earl Scruggs Center. Her service to Cleveland County has also included current and past membership on numerous boards, including the Cleveland County Community Foundation and The Salvation Army Advisory Board, having served as chair of both. Gravett is a member of Shelby Presbyterian Church, where she leads a Sunday School class and serves as an Elder.

Darlene and Ray have one daughter, Leslie, born in Davenport, Iowa, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Winthrop University and a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina. She is married to Eric Dellinger, a former Army sergeant. They have one son, Luke.

After years of packing and unpacking for new posts and positions and not knowing how to answer questions about where she is from, Gravett feels at home in Boiling Springs.

Sources: “The Webb,” Summer 2007; personal interview— Kathryn H. Hamrick

Updated: September 2014 by Dr. Darlene Gravett and the Gardner-Webb University Office of Communications

Updated: July 18, 2022 by Dr. Darlene Gravett

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