Question.) When did you graduate from WCU and in what subject area?
Answer.) I graduated from WCU in 1954. I earned a double major in both Art and Social Sciences. In the early 1960’s I returned to WCU and received a Master in Education and Education Specialist degrees.
Q.) Maggie, you were very involved as a student at WCU (Senior Class Treasurer, Who’s Who, May Day Queen Court and voted “Best-All-Around”). What are some of your fondest memories of your days at WCU?
A.) I have always looked back at my years at WCU with great love and intense gratitude.
As an incoming freshman, I was a young girl from a very small town deep in Appalachia.
Many of my high school classmates, though bright and ambitious, never had the chance
to attend college. I’ll always be grateful that I did get the opportunity to further
my education and particularly so that I attended WCU. My years at WCU directed my
life toward worthwhile efforts with keen emphasis on helping those in need. The administration
and faculty advocated, and were constant examples of, living up to high standards
and left an indelible impression on me and my classmates. My years at Western were
some of the happiest of my life and I am so grateful for the many associations I made
during my time there. As to my fondest memories…
-Dancing at the Student Union after dinner.
-Many happy hours whiled away at The Townhouse restaurant, and the lovely family (the Browns) who ran it.
-Snowball fights! One had to be prepared for an ambush all over campus during the winter!
-Getting all dressed up in beautiful formal gowns for fancy dances at The Big Rock Gym (Breese). We really enjoyed dressing up in those days…
-Tubing down the Tuckasegee river.
-Trips home with friends to Highlands, Asheville, Brevard, Winston-Salem and many other beautiful places.
-Playing late-night bridge with my pals in the dorm.
-Sadie Hawkins Day! We would all get dressed up like characters from the (then) wildly popular hillbilly comic strip, Li’l Abner! I usually went as Moonbeam McSwine who happily resided in a pigsty….
-Homecoming events including constructing prize-worthy floats.
And last, but certainly not least, the infamous Panty Raids wherein we would toss our undergarments out the dormitory windows to the waiting boys down below. We never got these items of apparel back nor did we ever know what became of them. They will certainly someday be found by archaeologists who will attribute their presence to a sort of Rite of Spring Mating Ritual…(this conclusion won’t be far off the mark…).
Q.) Who were your favorite professors at Western Carolina and why?
A.) Where do I begin? We were so fortunate in our instructors. Some of my favorites
-Dr. Freida Greider, Dean of Women. Highly intelligent, she was both stern and yet very human. I believe that it was this dichotomy of personality traits which allowed her the ability to provide such excellent council. She was a very great lady and a lasting influence throughout my entire life.
-Dean H. B. Harrill. A genius administrator, he served as the chief advisor for those of us who were named to the student government. He was funny, could keep a secret when necessary and had the ability to set anyone straight who had veered off course. Certainly an invaluable skill-set for any school administrator!
-Professor Lillian Buchanan, Senior Librarian. A terrific resource for us all and the lady to whom I owe my life-long disdain for chewing gum!
- Professor Mamie Rae Brooks, Fine Arts. A fabulous, dedicated teacher.
-Professor Hugh Smith, History. Ditto.
-Professor Clinton Dobson, Science. His “wildcrafting” class was one of my favorites; a clever combination of science and art.
-Coach Tom Young, Physical Education.
-Mrs. Edith Hall, Housemother, Moore Dormitory. If ever there is a woman who earned a place in heaven it’s Mrs. Hall. She put up with all of our antics with both wisdom and grace (including the aforementioned Panty Raids)!
- Robert and Mamie, housekeepers extraordinaire…They were the married couple who kept everything humming along satisfactorily at Moore dormitory. The Strong Right Hand of Mrs. Hall, they served with complete dedication and will certainly be remembered by all of the women who lived there with great respect and affection.
Q.) Maggie, you enjoyed a long and distinguished career in education. Tell us a little about your career path after you graduated Western.
A.) After leaving WCU, I taught high school for several years in North Carolina. In 1957 I moved to Fort Myers, Florida to accept a position as the art and history teacher at Fort Myers Senior High School. Later, I was offered an administrative position as Arts Coordinator for Visual Arts Programming for Lee County Public Schools, a position I occupied until my retirement 27 years later. During these years, this program, which serves grades K through 12, grew to encompass around 80 schools with over 80 teachers. Over the years, growing emphasis was placed upon establishing close working relationships between the public school fine and performing arts programs and the vibrant arts community in Lee County. These efforts included collaborative programming with the Edison and Ford Winter Estates and The Lee County Alliance for the Arts, among other community and governmental agencies. Despite continuing budgetary woes, many of the initiatives put in place during my tenure continue to this day and, in 2003, The Kennedy Center recognized the Lee County Public Schools for their Fine and Performing Arts program. This recognition was certainly a great honor for the many dedicated teachers and other professionals associated with the Lee County Art Education Association. All told, I was an educator for almost 37 years. I’ve taught every age group from pre-kindergarten to adults and I’ve loved working with every group. I was blessed in my vocation and I am grateful for such a long and happy career path.
Q.) Since retirement…what keeps you busy these days?
A.) By happy coincidence, I retired the day that my dear grandson, Benjamin Drury Ruoff was born. In the early 90’s I left my home of almost 40 years (Ye Gods…) and moved to Winter Park, Florida to be near my daughter, Dawn, and her family. I am blessed with a close, loving family which, in addition to Ben and Dawn, includes Steve, the sweetest son-in-law on Earth. I am in good health and have continued to volunteer every year since my retirement in 1993. I am still an active church-goer and I am close with a wide circle of friends from both my place of worship as well as my neighborhood. Interestingly, I have many, many young friends who watch over me almost as closely as my daughter and keep me “hip” to what’s happening in the world! I remain a real political nerd and watch CSPAN religiously. I’ve been around the block enough to know that, in spite of all the political upheaval and angst that we are currently experiencing as a nation, we ARE going to be okay and things are generally getting better all the time. I believe in the American people and never does a day go by that I’m not grateful to be a citizen of this great nation. Never bet against America.
In addition to family, friends, church and TV viewing, I enjoy eating out (diners, dives and fine dining) and taking day-trips with my daughter (and best friend) Dawn. We have discovered so many crazy roadside attractions between Fort Myers and Western North Carolina that we could write a travel log for the demented (You may take it from me that, yes Virginia, there IS a Skunk Festival).
Q.) Now tell us something unique and interesting about yourselves that few people may know.
A.) Something unique and interesting…I have had the most insane life with animals.
Dr. Doolittle has nothing on me. Over the course of my life I’ve had a pet squirrel
who we raised from a baby (she was indulgently allowed to build a nest in my mother’s
prize Grand piano…). We had a pet rooster – a proud, handsome devil – by the name
of Bonaparte. He was so fearsome that the postman came to no longer deliver the mail
to our home and we had to pick it up at the post office for YEARS. I raised a skunk
by the name of Pepe who I can attest was absolutely fastidious. After moving to Fort
Myers to teach, my two roommates (also teachers) came home one weekend with a tiny
baby MONKEY. We coexisted with this little hellion (opposable thumbs, actual tears,
midnight boo-hooing) for several months until one night I was awakened to discover
that she had crawled into my bed WITH A BUTTERED BISCUIT IN HAND. I announced that
it was either me or the monkey: a new home was found for her forthwith. Never once
in my life have I ever been free from the attention of needy animals and, even now,
a stray cat, who had long been rejected by the neighborhood as too aloof, has taken
up with me and contentedly naps in my lap most afternoons. Ducks, hamsters, mice,
dogs of all types and SCORES of cats have sponged off of me for decades. My daughter
says that when I die and, hopefully, pass through the Pearly Gates I’ll be greeted
by a veritable battalion of four-footed friends. After all, Heaven just wouldn’t be
Heaven without them…right? Life has been good to Maggie Akin. I’m grateful and, moreover,
I would LOVE to hear from any and all of my old classmates. Please get in touch with me via email at email@example.com and we’ll have a swell time reminiscing about the good times we had at our beloved WCU. We continue to maintain a little home in my hometown of Murphy, NC and we do get home each summer to catch up with family and escape the Florida heat. We would LOVE to entertain any old friends who would like to stop by or meet somewhere.