I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, with almost no exposure to other races and cultures. When I was 12, my mother got a job with the Women’s Division of the Methodist Church. Through her, I met women of many races and cultures and heard about discrimination.
In 1956, I traveled to Ohio Wesleyan University. Soon after arriving there, I heard about fraternity and sorority rush. The more I heard, the more nervous I got. Being shy and having rather low self-esteem, I dreaded the idea of going to parties and being looked over by “sorority girls.” I then realized that there were a few girls not doing rush and that none of the black girls were. I asked why and was told that OWU only had white sororities.
That was really my first experience with discrimination. I thought and prayed about it and dropped out of rush. I wanted to stand with those who were excluded. (You realize, of course, that it was also a way of avoiding those parties.) A professor had moved to OWU from my home town and home church. His wife called me and told me dropping out of rush would be very bad for me and that I would have no social life. I think maybe she also called or wrote my mother.
In college, I was active in the Methodist Student Movement and YWCA. I met quite a few “independent” (non- sorority) girls and we got together and organized. We became “Independent Women” and even had a seat at the Pan-Hellenic Table.
I enjoyed my religion classes but really fell in love with sociology. Knowing my concerns about minority issues, a professor asked if I would like to go on a semester exchange program at a small college for young black women in Greensboro, North Carolina.
In January, 1959, I began one of the greatest and formative experiences in my life. I was warmly greeted by the president of Bennett College, the faculty and staff, and also the students. They embraced this white girl with the Bennett sisterhood that is the foundation of life at the college. But the Bennett spirit really fed me in a new way. At the end of the semester, I asked, and was allowed to enroll for my senior year.
My time at Bennett and my acceptance there by students, who were themselves excluded from many things, changed me and altered my life goals. Because of the Bennett girls, I began several years of working in the black community and in areas of poverty, through the Methodist Church. God used Bennett and my sociology professor to get me where I needed to be. Many years later, I felt called to ministry as a local pastor. I was counseling with many unchurched kids from difficult homes and I wanted to help them find love and acceptance in local churches. I thank God for all my experiences but especially for the Bennett girls.