magazine-category: Alumni

Unbreakable Bonds

friends from the class of 1964

Women Have Shared Joys and Sorrows for Nearly Six Decades

In 1962, seven young women came to Gardner-Webb, then a junior college, from six towns scattered across the Mountains, Piedmont and Coastal Plains of North Carolina.

They were strangers who ended up next door to each other on the third floor of Stroup Dormitory. Four of them became roommates. When they graduated two years later, these seven friends had forged a bond that has lasted nearly six decades. They’ve celebrated marriages, the births of children and grandchildren, and carried each other through sickness and times of sorrow.

two alumni friends looking out of the window“The first thing you do when you get some bad news, is you let them know,” said Lynora Greene Essic, who grew up on a farm in Alleghany County, N.C., and now lives in Winston-Salem. “Letting them know is just like contacting the rest of the family.”

In May 2021, Essic met Linda Query Ramseur of Concord, N.C., Carolyn Bentley Lindsley of Raleigh, N.C., Bette Howell Edwards, of Nashville, Tenn., and Betsy Thompson Robinson, of Stanley, N.C., at Gardner-Webb to have lunch, reminisce and tour the campus.

It was the first time the five of them had visited the campus as a group in 57 years. The women attended Gardner-Webb for different reasons. Lindsley was from Asheville, N.C., and her family expected her to go to Mars Hill, but she wanted to go to a Christian school closer to Davidson, where her boyfriend was in college. “So I found Gardner-Webb,” she said. “We’ve been married 56 years, have two sons, two grandsons and one granddaughter.”

Essic grew up in the shadow of an older sister. “I said, ‘I’m going somewhere where nobody knows me.’ I’m not going to be known as so and so’s daughter or sister,” she related. “Nobody in Alleghany County had ever been to Gardner-Webb. The day I showed up here was the first day I ever saw the campus.”

Edwards, originally from Waynesville, N.C., was the youngest of five children and looked
up to her older brother, a GWU football player. “I thought he knew everything,” she said. “Whatever he did, I did.”

friends from the class of 1964
Carolyn Bentley Lindsley, Linda Query Ramseur, Betsy Thompson Robinson, Lynora Greene Essic and Bette Howell Edwards

Robinson, who grew up in Stanley, applied late to Gardner-Webb. She wanted to get into dental assistant school but was put on a waiting list. “I knew I had to find somewhere to go, because it was understood in my family that you would go to college,” he said. “I knew two girls who were going to school here, so I applied and got in. I was a cheerleader for two years and met my husband here. He was a basketball player – it’s the all-American story.”

Ramseur, who also had a boyfriend at home, discovered Gardner-Webb when a representative of the college came to her school. “He was a good salesperson,” she said. “I got all the information and took it home and showed my mother and daddy. We came for a visit. My daddy learned it was Baptist and a Christian school and that was all he needed.”

The women reminisced about the strict rules in the 1960s and the Dean of Women Miss Ruth Kiser, who enforced them. In the evenings, students stayed in their rooms from 7-9 p.m. At 9:30 p.m., they could take a study break to walk to the bookstore and get a snack. They were expected to be back before lights out, which was 11 p.m. on weeknights and 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night—if you had a C average. “We had to sign in and sign out,” Edwards said. “When you walked in that door, Dean Kiser would stand there and look you up and down. If it was 5 minutes after 11, your parents were called.”

After graduation they went their separate ways, but stayed in touch. The first time they all got together was in 1979, and they have met yearly since. The women are thankful for the “divine intervention” that brought them together “We had some good times,” Robinson reflected after seeing their old dorm rooms. “I wouldn’t take anything for the experience we had.”

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