Same Sex Education? Bring it!

5 years ago

Part of our Alma Mater-seriously…

There was an article in yesterday’s USA Today about how enrollment in women’s colleges is down now more than ever-not where I went to school, where they have the largest freshman class in the history of their school!

30 years ago I graduated  from a women’s college in North Carolina.  In a class of around 200 mostly southern bred, driven, good lookin’, partying, smart and hilarious females. It was an anti-climactic end to four years of drama,hangovers, cigarettes, near miss DUI’s, frat parties, no air conditioning, education and life lessons.    This  past spring we gathered for our 30th reunion to catch up.  And drink, and catch up, and laugh, and drink, and re-hash those moments that we know we will never get back but changed us for a lifetime.

Today, most high school girls will never know the intimacy a small college, especially a woman’s college, can bring to a college education and to competing in the working world.  No glass ceilings exist in these environments. What do you want to be? Let’s make that happen!  The pressure of men in the classroom is non-existent.  Raise your hand, ask a question, be SMART and don’t be judged.  Speak up and become a leader.  I loved the small discussions we had with our professors over coffee (and  cigarettes-we were, of course, in Winston-Salem, home of RJ Reynolds…) Develop a unique outlook on life and an appreciation for the education that is being given to you.  Appreciate the history of the environment you are learning in.

Most of today’s teenage girls  turn up their noses at the thought of attending a same-sex college. Mainly because they are being educated in huge factory-like public schools where the only way you can break out of the crowd early and achieve popularity is to have a boyfriend, exist in a clique, color your hair, wear designer clothing….or draw unwanted negative attention to yourself–piercings, tattoos, partying…

I was part of one of the largest incoming classes in 1978 to this college in quite some time.  My peers were an assortment of debutants, southern girls, actresses, musicians, artists and pre-med, pre-law, and pre- grad school students.  It was joked, of course, that the only reason that we were there was to get our MRS degree. Pretty hard to accomplish when you have curfew and no men in the dorms after 11pm in that environment back in 1978.  We tried, and did, break the mold of the kind of women who attended these places, starting with all of us scantily clad in our first month of school as freshmen (King Tut, anyone?) in the college’s annual Fall Fest weekend.  We have never lived that down and we are proud of that.

Our lives since our 1982 graduation reads like a southern gothic novel.  Marriages, divorces, children, losses, rehab, self discovery, self REcovery, travel, job, business successes and failures.  Run of the mill stuff.  But in the back of our mind, we never doubted our ability to handle many of these good or bad events because of the resilience that was ingrained in us at a college with over 200 years of experience forming self-sufficient women.  We demanded respect from our peers (and men), not attention.

Main Hall, Salem College, NC

Our favorite motto at that time, in the beginning of the crazy big haired 1980′s was, ‘you can take a Salem women out of the class, but you can’t take the Class out of a Salem woman.’  We live by that today, and always will.  Thank you Salem College, for the close female friendships I still have  with my alums, and for giving me the confidence to be who I am today.


All ohotos copyright@ME! Rusty Stirrup Photography


Mary Anne

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