Interview with Norma White

Norma White was interviewed by Adam Portoghese on April 12, 2012.

Norma White grew up in Reidsville, North Carolina, on a tobacco farm with her mother, father, and sister. Her family employed several African-Americans to work the farm, and Norma grew up in an atmosphere of racial understanding. When integration later came, she needed no time to adjust. She attended Wake Forest University and majored in math. She became a teacher after college, and taught in a number of different locations due to her willingness to follow her husband’s changing career path. Her husband, Alan White, played football in Canada after college, but they soon made their way back to the United States to pursue careers in teaching.  After several more moves throughout the South, Alan became the athletic director at Elon University, and Norma settled into Burlington teaching at Western Alamance High School. She and Alan had a son, who also ended up going to Wake Forest. He is now married and has a child of his own who is now looking at colleges.

On Career Options

Norma spoke of the career possibilities available to women at the time of her graduation from Wake Forest.

You either became a teacher, a social worker, or you could major in business. There were not many options. So I thought, “I will be a teacher, and I am going to stay here. And I will think about nursing later.” I majored in math, and I really had as many hours in science just in case, but I never really thought that I’d have a career. I never really thought I would do that. Because [the way] I grew up, my mother worked in the home, and I just never thought I would do anything. But this was great; I was growing up.

Listen to the audio of Norma’s response about her career choices.

On Teaching

Norma described motivation and passion she found in the teaching.

It was good, challenging. But what I realized was that I loved the students and my subject was just the vehicle to get to work with these students. I would have never been able to if I had not had something to teach them. But my passion was the student. I mean it. I taught the subject because I wanted to do a good a job. I took a lot of pride in what I did and I worked very hard. But at the end of the day it was the student that I just loved. And I keep up with them.

Listen to the audio of Norma’s response about her experiences teaching.

On Values

Norma placed faith as one of the four central themes of her life.

I guess my whole life has been faith: faith in God. I have a strong faith in God, and involvement in my church. My Bible study too. We go to Franklin Street Methodist Church, but the church is a whirl. No matter who I am meeting with we talk about God.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Norma’s faith.

On Humor

From the start it was clear Norma liked to laugh and its value to her daily life.

Humor: You know I have given you four things that I just think in life that just keeps you energized. Finding laughter. Everything is not funny, I know that. But you can get it a way, and [my friend] Jeanne has been a humorist. I see her doing this – finding humor in stressful situations [Laughs], and she can find it. Now there are times in life that everything is not funny, for sure, and that is common sense. But if you just look at things a little differently….

Listen to the audio about humor.

On Tobacco Farming

While at Wake Forest, Norma began to reflect on her family’s livelihood in new ways.

Growing up on the tobacco/vegetable farm, I did not like that. I did not like working in tobacco. I did not think that it was morally good. It was a bad thing. I didn’t know a lot about ethics, but going to Wake Forest I learned a lot of things [Laughing] that we never talked about. But I knew that was how we made money, and it was a good life.

Listen to the audio of Norma’s reflection.

Interview with Ann Reynolds

Ann Reynolds was interviewed by Sarah Graves on November 3, 2010.

Ann Reynolds grew up in a Christian home in Wilkesboro, North Carolina with her mom, dad and brother. She lived there till she left to go to Agnus Scott, an all girls college, in Atlanta. After her freshman year she transferred to The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where she met great friends that she still has today. After college she moved to Charlotte, NC where she became a pharmacist. She met her husband in there, then moved to Burlington for his job after the wedding. She has three children and is a breast cancer survivor. Ann loves to travel and go to her weekly bible studies. Christianity to Ann is about the relationship and not the religion.

On morals in college:

I’ve been a teetotaler my whole life. Kind of made up my mind that people asked me why I’d say, “Number one I don’t like the taste, and number two I don’t want anything that is going to control me, I want to be in control of myself.” [SG: Right.] It hasn’t been a hard challenge. It’s just been one that I have personally had my agenda that I don’t need it, so I’m not going to succumb to what the world says is acceptable, you know? So even through college I was unique.

Listen to the audio of Ann’s response about her morals.

On her and her husband’s relationship

Well, we have grown so much in our faith since then. I would probably, you know, put the Lord first. Another thing is just, I think you need to outdo each other in how much you love each other. I particularly was a taker in our relationship. I saw my mother was a taker in her relationship, if you know what I mean? Fairfax was a natural giver. I don’t mean materially, I meant – he would give up his ways so that I could have my way. That was the example that I had had given to me. When I really started studying the Bible, I just realized that was wrong, total wrong thinking. That I was to be submissive to my husband. We are all to be submissive to each other. But our relationship grew so much more when I understood that how selfish I was. God just started changing me little by little and showing me my selfishness.

Listen to the audio of Ann’s response about her marriage.

Ann explains how she instills Christianity into her children

Well we started out taking them to church all the time. That was never an option whether you go to church at our house, we did. But as I became deeper in my faith and realized it was more a relationship than it was religion. I started living out the relationship, whereas the Lord came first in my life and before He didn’t come first. It was family first. [SG: Right.] Maybe church came high up there, but not Jesus because I didn’t really know that relationship with Jesus so how did I give it to my children. [SG: Right.] I think you live it out and that’s how you show it to your children. [SG: Right.] I think when Heath made that statement our whole family changed when my mom started bible study is because the relationship became real to me and she saw that.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Ann’s life.

Ann was very proud of her children. Here she talks about her oldest daughter, Heath

I always describe Heath to somebody that it was like the light came on in the room when she walked through. [SG: Right.] She was full of joy and just, you know, she was maturing, she was sharing things that were on her heart and just it was great.

Listen to the audio about her children.

Battle with cancer and relationship with God

That is a testimony that I wasn’t afraid. I know that was Him. I knew that the worst thing in life is not dying. If He took my life, He took my life. I knew my family, you know, I knew Heath was a strong enough leader that she would take care of the family from the maternal part. I knew Fairfax would find another wife, that everybody was saved at that point. So death was not really a frightening thing to me. [SG: Oh my gosh.] It wasn’t. He just really, gosh, I just felt the Lord’s presence in a way that I… you don’t ever invite that kind of stuff into your life ‘cause, you just don’t [laughs]. But the challenges of watching God work in the midst of my cancer was really something that I’ll never forget. It taught me that everything in that book over there is true [Pointing toward The Bible].

Listen to the audio of Ann’s response about her cancer experience.

Interview with Janice Allman

Janice Allman was interviewed by Kristin Pinder on November 6, 2010.

Born in 1942, Janice Allman is now sixty-eight years old. She grew up with what she refers to as “Christian heritage,” in a pastor’s home. She was married to Pastor Max Allman until his death seven years ago. She has three children who provided her with fourteen grandchildren. When she is not spending time with family, Mrs. Allman volunteers at the Cancer Center, participates in church activities and manages her cake business.

On Marriage

Janice shares her views on marriage, and discusses her relationship with her late husband, Max.

I really think to have to a good marriage: first of all, it’s got to be grounded with the Lord first. And He’s got to be at the head of your house. And then the Bible says that the man is to be the head of the house. He is to be the spiritual leader. And I think that a man should take that responsibility, and that the wife should let him. Too often I think we tend to think it demeans us, if we can’t have our say. And I’m not saying you’re not supposed to discuss things with each other, I think that’s just common courtesy that you discuss and make plans together. And you make decisions together. But as far as one being over the other, I don’t think being head of the house is being. I didn’t consider him being over me, because he loved and adored me. And he told me that the morning that he died. He came in and said, “I just thank God for you.”

Listen to the audio of Janice’s response about her marriage.

On “The Little Things”

The selection below emphasizes the intertwinement of Janice’s idea of God and her daily routine.

I used to sew a lot for people. And I made most of my children’s clothes. And there would be times where I would get very perturbed at my sewing machine because the thread would break, or the bob[bin] would mess up. And I would literally, when I would sit down to sew, I would ask God, “Please, Lord, help this come out.” Maybe my cakes stuck because I didn’t say, “Help my cakes not stuck.” [Both laugh.] I do so much baking that whenever I take a pound cake out of the oven, I always say, “Lord, please let this come out and not stick,” and it does. I mean, you know [laughs]. Of course this was a new recipe and it may be that I just didn’t grease it quite enough at the bottom, but it’s you know. And a lot of people think, “Oh, that’s silly.” But no, I think God is interested in the little things just as good as He is the big things.

Listen to the audio of Janice’s response about the little things.

On Motherhood

Janice discusses what she considers the hardest part of motherhood.

When you see your children hurt. I don’t care how old they get, they’re still your kids. And you think, “Oh, once they get married, they’re gone.” They’re not. And they hurt, you hurt. It’s just like when they were little and they’re sick, you want to take that pain away, but you can’t. You’d like to be suffering for them when they’re hurting, earaches, whatever, whatever their sickness is.

Listen to the audio excerpt about motherhood.

On Giving Back

Janice volunteers regularly at the Cancer Center. The following conveys what inspires her as she works there.

Well I started that two years ago this past May. In fact, I worked six months when I found out I had cancer. A lot of people say, “Oh, I couldn’t stand to work there,” but I tell you what, it will improve your outlook on life, because you see people come through there every age. Old. Young. Newly married. Fathers expecting [their] first child, in there they find out they have cancer. But I don’t care how bad they might look, you rarely hear any negative response. They come in there and say, “Hey, how are you today?” [The cancer patients say,] “I’m good, I’m good,” but yet they look like they could hardly walk through the door.

Listen to the audio about giving back.

On Peace

After discovering she had breast cancer, Janice found herself at a turning point in her life. In this excerpt, she talks about how she felt.

Two years ago when I was told I had breast cancer, it hit me like, “Oh, my goodness. Cancer. The terrible word.” But just as quick, God me gave me peace. And the fact that I’ve got this in control, you know. And a lot of people go all to pieces but that’s not going to heal the cancer, and that’s not going to make it any worse to lose control or to go ballistic. And I know my son came to me, Chris said, “Mom, are you really that calm about this, or are you just putting a show on for us?” And said, “No, God’s given me peace.”

Listen to the audio of Janice’s response about peace.

Interview with Cheryl Jeffries

Cheryl Jeffries was interviewed by Joanna Rabiej on November 5, 2010.

Cheryl Jeffries is a primary care physician practicing at Burlington’s Kernodle Clinic.  She was born in Alamance County but moved to Maryland at seven years old when her mother re-married.  She came back to North Carolina when she decided to go Duke University for undergraduate education.  Dr. Jeffries attended medical school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Dr. Jeffries is very active in the community and is involved with a faith-based health improvement ministry.  She has also been instrumental in helping her clinic became more welcoming to female physicians.

On being a female African-American doctor

Cheryl tends to feel there are more issues in medicine related to gender rather than race.  This is apparent in her response to some of her experiences:

Female African-American doctor?  Yeah, I have had patients, they think you’re the nurse – and I don’t know if that’s more of a gender thing. You go in the room in the hospital to take a history and examine the patient, and they’re like, “When’s the doctor coming?” “Ma’am, I am the doctor.” Or “Sir, I am the doctor.”  I don’t know so much as a racist thing, probably more of a gender thing. They assume the doctor is going to be a boy, or they did back then, just assume the doctor’s going to be a guy.  When they saw you, and they’re like, “Excuse me, nurse! Nurse!”  That occasionally happens today. When I went into private practice, I think in residency it wasn’t such an issue because you’re taking care of a lot of indigent patients at that time, so they were just happy to get any care that they could get.  There was not a lot of issues of that kind of thing, “I don’t want her taking care of me.”  I don’t ever really remember experiencing that.

Listen to the audio of Cheryl’s response about her experience as a doctor.

On Spirituality

Well, I think, from being young, I’ve always had a spiritual foundation. My theory on happiness is that you have to have something to believe in that’s bigger than yourself, you have to have something meaningful to do, you have to have somebody to love or take care of, and then you have to have something to look forward to.  Those are my four personal things that I need to have in my life to have balance. I’m finding that my daughter is the same way.  So when I’m sort of spiritually out of balance or not spiritually connected, then things aren’t going right. When I don’t feel like I’m involved in some sort of project that is helping somebody else, then things aren’t going right. I always need something to look forward to. I need a trip, or I need a vacation, or I need something to look forward to. I have kids and significant others, there’s always somebody to love and take care of, somebody always has a need.

Listen to the audio of Cheryl’s response about spirituality.

On differences between certain cities in North Carolina

Cheryl has lived in several cities in North Carolina.  Here she describes some of them:

Well, Durham is Durham. I was there at the university. Durham has really grown, and it’s become a very nice town, but at that time, it was Duke, and then it was Durham. The two just didn’t mix.  So I don’t really have much experience with Durham.  Chapel Hill, of course, I think Chapel Hill and Asheville are the two places in North Carolina that are somewhat eclectic and contemporary and are probably the most liberal cities in North Carolina.  I would say Asheville, Asheville’s really eclectic and kind of liberal and Chapel Hill, so Chapel Hill was a fun place to be and to live and to work. Charlotte is a big city. Booming, growing city, and much bigger now than when I was there, I think.  I left Charlotte in 1992, so I was there from 1986 to 1992. Incredible growth, a lot of young people going there to work in the financial industry, and so it was a yuppy, young urban professional-type place.  So it was a good place to be, socially, and when I was in training, even though you’re on call every third night, you still find some time to socialize at that point.  And all the cities are unique. I like North Carolina, I think you get a little bit of everything in North Carolina.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Cheryl describing North Carolina cities.

On her most rewarding community involvement

Community involvement is very important to Cheryl, as seen through the faith-based health improvement ministry related to her work:

I think probably the most rewarding thing has been this faith-based health improvement initiative because I think we’re going to see more and more of that. That’s been fun and rewarding. I can see it carrying on. Every once a year, the group will say, “We need to get another one of those classes! Everybody’s getting fat again! We need to do our class over!” So people, they re-do the class, and people get motivated and get back on track. We have made some changes in our communities and in our churches that alter the eating, and they’ll remind each other. They’re going through the line at the homecoming dinner, “You know you’re not supposed to eat that fried stuff!” So made some changes. We’ve actually had a nutritionist come out, had somebody go out with them shopping at the grocery store. Each week in the class, you do a little different thing. So that’s been fun.

Listen to the audio about the health improvement ministry.

Reflections on her proudest achievements

Cheryl is a very accomplished woman, as a mother and a physician.  Here she discusses some of her most significant sacrifices, choices, and skills:

I don’t know, I think you make sacrifices, and you make choices. I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in terms of career things because I wanted to have a family, and my children have always been the most important thing, most important part of my life.  I think that women in general don’t hang their self-worth on their careers or what they do. That’s just a part of who they are. Men tend to have their whole self-worth tied up in their careers and how much money they make and their successes in terms of their careers. I don’t feel that at all.  I mean, I think I’m good at what I do, and I’m probably good at what I do because of the skills that I possess that have nothing to do with medicine. The same skills that I possess that make me good at being a good mommy. So I guess those would probably be the achievements, the chief of staff and being the oldest and only African-American female partner.

Listen to the audio of Cheryl’s response about her proudest achievements.

Interview with Susan Yow

Susan Yow was interviewed by Pam Richter on November 4, 2010

Susan Yow is the youngest of four siblings, including her older sister Kay who is one of the most well-renowned college basketball coaches in the history of the sport.  Kay is most known for her perseverance through her battle with breast cancer and recording one of the highest win totals in college basketball history.  Debbie Yow, another one of Susan’s older siblings, is the athletic director at N.C. State University, and their older brother played football at Clemson University.  Susan has made her mark on the athletic world as well.  Throughout her career, Susan has twenty four years of Division I coaching experience and spent four seasons coaching professional in the Women’s National Basketball Association.  She was born on August 5th, 1954 in Gibsonville, N.C. and is the current women’s basketball coach at Belmont Abbey College, located in Charlotte, N.C. 

Kay Yow’s cancer battle

It was hard.  It’s just hard.  But Kay handled it so well, it made it easier for everyone.  It really did.  As it got down to the last year and a half or so, we knew it was terminal.  We’ve always known that.  We knew it was level four cancer, but nobody knows your time or day part in this world.  As it got closer you could see the deterioration in her body, that was hard.  But Kay just did a great job handling it.  It made it really easier for everyone.  I don’t think you can ever prepare for death of someone, but having lost our mom to cancer and watching that, to me I was able to prepare myself a little bit for it.  I really was and to really ponder what it was going to be like not to have her here.  It was hard because she and I talked after every game I had ever coached.  Not to have her to pick up the phone to call her after a game was really really strange and really hard.  The year I was here, the rest of that season, I always called her and told her about the game.  But she made it easy, she really made easy how she handled things and her faith and just her enthusiasm for life.  She never lost that.  It was fun all the way up until the very very end until probably the last three weeks and then she was so weak and was in the hospital and stayed in the hospital and that was a hard time.  But, many many people go through it, you just deal with it

Listen to the audio of Susan’s response about her sister’s cancer battle.

A lesson Kay taught her

One thing she taught me and she kind of taught me this when I was at Elon – whatever you do, do your very very best.  Whatever you do, just do your very very best.  It’s what’s on the inside that counts really.

Listen to the audio of Susan’s response about a lesson her sister taught her.

Challenges with coaching

It’s just a lot of pressure.  I admire those people that do it and can do it with great integrity and not lose their values and not be bought, not sell their soul and put your head down every night.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Susan’s thought on the challenges with coaching.

Difference between men’s and women’s basketball

The biggest difference is an age old problem or concern.  They play above the rim, we play below the rim.  They really do and that’s the biggest difference.  ‘Cause you know we can’t dunk, we can’t do alley oops.  And for that reason we don’t have the power the men have in the game as far as the thrust, and we don’t have the speed nor the quickness that they have, but other than that I think in some regards I think our game might be better because I think we are more fundamental and we play more as a unit and we’re not individualized so much because we don’t have that athleticism.

Listen to the audio about the difference in men’s and women’s basketball.


I think I was called here.  I think I’m supposed to be here.  My Christian faith is where all of my values are wrapped up in; everything is wrapped up in that, the Ten Commandments.  Doing to others that you have them do onto you, it’s all wrapped up into that.

Listen to the audio of Susan’s response about her values.

Interview with Jeanne Williams

Jeanne Williams was interviewed by Kate MacDonald on April 28, 2010 and May 3, 2010.

Jeanne Williams was around eighty seven years old at the time of the interview.  She was born in Providence, Rhode Island but has lived in North Carolina for around fifty years and currently resides in Burlington, North Carolina.  She has three children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Williams attended the University of Rhode Island as an undergraduate majoring in Biology and Mathematics.  She received her graduate degree through a fellowship from North Carolina State University and became the first woman to receive a degree in Experimental Statistic from that program.  She went on to teach statistics at the University of Connecticut and at Elon University, where she was the first woman chairman of the Department of Business Administration and Economics.  Williams was also the first woman chair of the Alamance Health Planning Council and one of the first women on the board of directors for Alamance ElderCare.  She became one of the first women to be ordained as a deacon at the First Christian United Church of Christ in Burlington, where she continues to teach Sunday school.  In her free time she enjoys reading, gardening, and painting antique trays for her family.

On Women in College in the 1940s

When asked about the reaction to the increase of the number of women in college in the 1940s, Jeanne replied:

Well as more women attended at the University of Rhode Island, we had all kinds of athletic opportunities.  By the senior year I was on the senior basketball team and the senior volleyball team.  And believe it or not we had intramurals and intercollegiate games.  The University of Rhode Island played the University of Connecticut, we played New York University, and several.  But it was all at our own expense at that time for travel.  But girls were really beginning to have visions of continuing higher in education.  You realized that it was in 1881 that girls were first allowed into college, thanks to the American Association of University Women.  So I think that girls have the potential and now-a-days they’re going into math and science and engineering and all of the disciplines that maybe they wouldn’t have years ago.

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about women in college in the 1940s.

On Technological Advancements and Service

When asked about technological advancements and service, Jeanne replied:

I guess you might say life is easier in some senses.  But people haven’t learned I don’t think to use the time that they save from saving devices to use it to good advantage in some cases.  Now we had a period in Burlington when oh community service through all the organizations like Kiwanis and Community Council and all of those different organizations were just wonderful.  And I’m sure there are some that are still very active but we don’t hear so much about the service organizations as we used to.  I don’t know whether it’s because younger people, younger adults, are not joining into these organizations because they’re off playing golf or something like that but the community service it’s important.  Now I know a lot of older people who are volunteers at the hospital and go every week and I think that’s wonderful.  I think everybody should have at least one connection to a service organization.

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about technological advancements and service.

On the South

When asked about moving to the South, Jeanne replied:

I think I probably had an adjustment when I first moved to the south as a family to Crammerton.  But everybody was very welcoming and hospitable and I think that we made our contacts immediately through the church and through the neighbors.  We just had good relationships there and the children had friends and that was important.  I think anybody moving around for them it’s important to make contacts through the church, whatever church, because then you have friends that you have something in common with.  And then your children have some friends with the same interests.  It’s just been a very good experience to do that.)

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about moving South.

On Raising Children

When asked about her philosophy concerning child rearing, Jeanne explains:

I suppose that we needed discipline but we also wanted them to learn on their own.  And we encouraged reading from very early ages and responsibility for them to learn as they run along in school, to develop their own responsibilities.  They’ve all done very well, and as I say, have gone to graduate school.

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about raising children.

On Retirement

Jeanne is a retired professor.  When asked about her retirement she replied:

I have time on my hands [laughs].  Like I said, I am teaching a study course and I also teach Sunday school.  I think it’s so important when you quote “retire,” because you don’t really retire, to keep your body moving and to keep your mind moving.  And the people that don’t do this you can see them, should I say, going downhill?

Listen to the audio of Jeanne’s response about retirement.

Interview with Mary Ellen Boyle

Mary Ellen Boyle was interviewed by Michelle Illar on date April 20, 2010.

Mary Ellen Boyle is 87 years old and currently resides in the Twin Lakes Community where she receives assistance while living with Parkinson’s disease. She was born and grew up in nearby Mebane and attended Louisburg College and East Carolina University on her way to becoming an elementary school teacher. She taught at Gibsonville Elementary School for 27 years. During that time she married and raised two daughters. She currently has two daughters, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Mary Ellen’s thoughts on going to church

Mary Ellen values her religion.  As Mary Ellen said in the interview:

My brother, my sister and I went to church every time the doors opened. It made me so sick of it. I didn’t want to but now I’m so grateful that we did that. Had that opportunity. Now my grandchildren don’t go to Sunday school at all; they don’t. They don’t go to church, not all of them, but most of them don’t.

Listen to the audio of Mary Ellen’s response about going to church.

Mary Ellen’s thoughts on changes in society

Mary Ellen thinks society has changed in many ways. She noted:

Well it’s changed in many ways. I think it’s too bad that people aren’t as many Christians as we thought there were in our country. That’s bad I think. Well, I don’t know, people just don’t have the right attitude I think, about getting along with people and what they do to help the situation. It’s really sad when you think about it. I think it’s so good to see that people are pitching in and helping the hungry. I didn’t realize that many hungry people in the United States, and overseas too.

Listen to the audio of Mary Ellen’s response about changes in society.

Mary Ellen’s thoughts on education

On her way to becoming a teacher, Mary Ellen enjoyed her education. She said:

Well I went to Louisburg, two years. And we couldn’t dance when I first went there. It was a Methodist college. And finally they started letting the students dance after dinner, in the social hall. We couldn’t even walk with boys around the campus when I first went there. I loved Louisburg. It was little. It was just fun. But I transferred, and my two roommates, to East Carolina. We liked that too. It was bigger than Louisburg, we felt kind of lost. We could dance there all we wanted to. I took most of my training for being an elementary teacher there, of course. One little boy I remember from there, I remembered his name until just recently, and thought about lately. But he was a cute little boy. And the little girls too, when we did practice teaching. But I can’t remember his name. But I’d love to see him [laughs]. Let’s see. We used to walk all the way to the Methodist church on Sundays, my roommates and I. Across town, to church. And we’d stop up town to eat breakfast at the drug store. Here I go again. We went to Overtown Inn, the Marines were there. We’d meet them and they’d take us up there and we’d dance. It was fun.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Mary Ellen’s education experiences.

Mary Ellen’s thoughts on regrets in life

Mary Ellen is very satisfied with her life, however, there was one thing she always thought would be a fun job.

I wanted to be an airline hostess one time. I wasn’t big enough I don’t think and couldn’t have passed the test anyway. But I always thought it would be fun to be an airline host. More so then than now, too dangerous now.

Listen to the one regret in life.

Mary Ellen’s thoughts about her mother

Mary Ellen loved her mother. She describes her mother’s work experience:

No, she stayed at home. She worked too hard for us. She was the PTA president and did a lot of work in the church and was very good at everything she did. She was a good woman. A good mama.

Listen to the audio of Mary Ellen talk about her mother.

Interview with Sharon Ringwalt

Sharon Ringwalt was interviewed by Cara Goering on November 7, 2007.

Sharon Ringwalt is a very interesting lady who has lived in North Carolina for the majority of her life. She grew up in High Point and currently lives in Chapel Hill. She was the only child of a couple that were much older than the parents of her peers. She is married and has one child. She was very close with her mother and is close with her husband and son. Religion has played a very strong role in Sharon’s life. She was raised Methodist and switched to Quaker in college. Within the past year Sharon and her husband have become Episcopalians. Sharon loves to cook, knit, and read. She worked as a speech and language pathologist for many years. Sharon also taught at UNC-Chapel Hill for many years. She recently went back to school to get her Ph.D. in early intervention. Currently she works in a policy and research institute that supports early intervention programs.

On North Carolina

Sharon enjoyed living in North Carolina, although she didn’t always feel that way. As she said in the interview:

When I was growing up, I didn’t like growing up in High Point, particularly. I just thought it was a boring place to grow up, and pretty provincial. I just didn’t like the values of a lot of the people there. I was very resistant to going to college in North Carolina. I wanted to go out of state and live out of state, and I was never going to come back to North Carolina. And my parents, being older parents, and very middle class, not wealthy, were very reluctant to let me go to college out of state. So the compromise was – they would’ve liked me go somewhere like UNC-Greensboro or someplace close and I just thought that was terrible. So the compromise was that I would come here for two years and then I could go out of state if I still wanted to. But of course once I was in Chapel Hill, you couldn’t not love Chapel Hill, so I stayed for four years. I quickly told my husband who was born in England and had lived in Jamaica, gone to prep school in the Northeast and college in the Northeast, that we would live someplace else. The pull of family and to come back here and the feeling that we needed to be here to be around our parents as they grew older and that we wanted to raise our… one child near family was surprising to me. I wouldn’t have predicted that when I was fifteen and wanting to go away.

Listen to the audio of Sharon’s response about living in North Carolina.


About the values she was taught by her parents, Sharon noted:

Family and church.  And my father believed very, very, very strongly in people getting jobs by merit and not through patronage. He had grown up in a time when it was who you knew that helped you get your job. He worked for the city of High Point in their Personnel Department. He felt strongly that you should work hard and get a job because you were qualified for the job.

Listen to the audio of Sharon’s response about family values.

Opportunities for Women

Sharon felt that gender roles changed during her lifetime:

There are more opportunities for different careers. The expectation of women my age was that we would grow up and be teachers or nurses or secretaries. And then I became a speech language pathologist, it was sort of, “Wait that’s not really a teacher or really a nurse.” So that was kind of different. When I did my master’s degree and I guess when I was considering master’s programs, my father said, “Well, I always wanted you to be a lawyer.” And that was just a huge surprise to me, that I certainly knew women who were going to law school, but it wasn’t sort of a prevalent career for women. I mean he never told me. I might have thought differently if he had ever said, “Law school would be really neat.” Which is not something I had ever considered.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Sharon’s thoughts on how gender roles have changed.


Sharon felt that it is very important that women receive encouragement to pursue careers:

There were certainly a lot of bright women who didn’t pursue higher education probably because either the family’s financial situation or because it wasn’t expected of them. My husband’s cousin who lives here – who’s in her mid-sixties, so you know ten years made a huge difference – she and her twin sister weren’t allowed to go to college because that wasn’t something that they did, although their older brother was expected to have a career. She and her twin sister both really had to fight as adults. Her twin sister went back to college, or went to college after her kids were born. It was just a different world.

Listen to the audio about pursuing a career.


Sharon feels that family is crucial:

I think it’s just sort of the root of everything. It was important enough to me and to my husband that when we were having rough times, that we not only fought with each other but fought to keep our marriage alive. It’s just the thing that’s with you.  If you lose your job, you’ve still got your family. If you lose your house, you’ve still got your family. If you can’t travel, you still have your family. So… it’s there.

Listen to the audio of Sharon’s response about family.