Monday, July 23, 2018

Establishing the Katharine Smith Reynolds Scholarship Program

In 1962, one year before Woman's College was renamed UNC Greensboro and two years before men undergraduates were allowed to enroll, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation made an initial gift of $58,600 (over $482,000 today's dollars) to WC to establish a scholarship program that would be named in memory of Katharine Smith Reynolds. At the time, it was the largest scholarship grant the school had ever received.

Portrait of Katharine Smith Reynolds
Katharine Smith Reynolds was born on November 17, 1880, in Mt. Airy, NC. She attended the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG) from 1897 to 1899. After the 1899 typhoid epidemic on campus, she transferred to Sullins College in Bristol, Va., where she graduated in 1902. She returned home after graduation and began work as a secretary at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in Winston-Salem. There, she worked with the company's founder (also her first cousin once removed), and they eventually married in 1905. After a honeymoon trip to Europe, she worked with landscape architects and designers to plan their grand Reynolda estate. She was a prominent local philanthropist and served as President of the Winston-Salem chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in 1917. On May 23, 1924, at the age of 44, Reynolds passed away due to complications of an embolism caused by the birth of her fifth child.

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation sought to honor her with a scholarship program that would provide an award for students entering WC as undergraduates. Reynolds Scholars would be chosen on the basis of scholastic ability and evidence of "moral force of character including truthfulness, courage, devotion to duty, unselfishness, and consideration for others." Leadership ability and financial need would also be considered.

In January 1963, letters were sent to principals in secondary schools throughout North Carolina announcing the first competition for the Katharine Smith Reynolds Scholarships. A Reynolds Scholarship Central Committee was formed to choose the award winners. This committee consisted of one appointee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, one permanent member by request of R.J. Reynolds, Jr., four faculty members appointed by the Chancellor, and three alumnae appointed by the president of the Alumnae Association. Additionally, Reynolds Scholarship District Committees were formed to facilitate in-person interviews with applicants across the state.

The initial class of Reynolds Scholars
Out of an applicant pool over over 200, twelve incoming freshmen were officially named as the inaugural class of Reynolds Scholars in May 1963. As the report of Central Committee chair Anne L. Lewis noted, "we were searching, above all, for excellent scholars. We feel sure that we have twelve such young women. You will be interested to know in addition, however, that in every case there is evidence of real financial need in order for the girl to pursue her higher education." The report also names the scholarship winners and provides a brief biographical sketch to illustrate their academic skills and "moral force of character":
  • Rosalyn R. Fleming of Greenville was described as "very polite, neat, personable" and had directed the Vacation Bible School at her church.
  • Evelyn Brake of Rocky Mount was "a lot on the ball, yet very modest." She earned money for college by driving a school bus and writing a school news column for a local newspaper.
  • Shelby Jean Rice of Holly Ridge  was the oldest of seven children in a farm family. She also was top of her class and president of her student body.
  • Francine Johnson of Four Oaks was also from a farm family, and the committee "was struck by what this girl had accomplished and the promise she showed."
  • Jane Taylor of Wilkesboro was described as a "lovely girl, very modest about her achievements, stands up for her own ideas."
  • Susan Prince of Chapel Hill  was the daughter of a French professor at Appalachian Teachers College (now App State). She attended a National Science Foundation program for talented high school students.
  • Nancy Glazebrook Holman of Wilmington, the daughter of a WC alumna, graduated top of her class of 550.
  • Dorothy Crowder of Charlotte was described as having a "pleasant face, good speaker, a lot of poise."
  • Anne Presnell of Statesville was tagged by the Admissions Office as "the top student admitted for next fall." 
  • Martha Bridges of Boiling Springs was the daughter of two school teachers.
  • Sandra Cheek of Marion was described as "very neat and sweet looking with a quiet, pleasing personality."
  • Judy Ann Davis of Pfafftown received a special award for a students from either Surry, Stokes, or Forsyth County who intended to major in chemistry.
The Katharine Smith Reynolds Scholarships continues today (although, in a change from the original intent, men were first allowed to apply for the program in 1980). In 1997, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation pledged $5 million to the University over 10 years. Part of the funds were used to establish the Katharine Smith Reynolds Scholarship Endowment.

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