Alumni Reflections
Centennial Charter Day
Shirley Williams Walton '60
March 24, 2010

Shirley WaltonShirley Walton ’60 took guests at the Centennial Charter Day Celebration on a walk down memory lane as she recapped Radford University’s past 100 years.  Below is the text of her speech.

We are fortunate to have so many alumni and friends with us to celebrate our 100th Birthday. We are especially thankful to have Governor Bob McDonnell with us as well as our special platform guests.  Our Centennial Ambassadors represent every decade and they have excelled in their professions, community service and personal lives.  Now let me share with you a trip down Radford's memory lane as we travel through each decade.

On August 9, 1913, Dr. John Preston McConnell, Radford's first President welcomed 72 students to campus. During this period, students were charged $15 per month for room and board.  This even included laundry service. Thirteen faculty members including M'Ledge Moffett and Dr. William Gilbert were among the first faculty hired.

Students at early RadfordThe class of 1921 donated the Joan of Arc statue which currently resides in McConnell Library. This lovely heirloom has made its rounds and was even part of a prank by one our Centennial Ambassadors, Doris Wall, who helped paint her fingernails! Shenanigans were everywhere including the painting of the local water tower by the class of 1922. During this time, the first sorority, Tri-Sigma was founded.  Virginia Deal Lawrence, Class of 1930 was one of its founders. Bobbed hair was all the rage. Army tents were brought in to house the overwhelming number of students who were coming to Radford.  The McGuffey Training School was opened allowing Radford to serve as a national model for teacher preparation programs. Field hockey was one of the first sports offered.

Assembly was part of daily life in the 1930s and George Washington Carver of the Tuskegee Institute was a notable campus speaker.  McConnell Library was constructed and students hand carried the books from Founder's Hall to the new location. Dr. David Peters was appointed president in 1937 and we have his descendents with us today.  Yearbooks were scarce because of the war. Radford students were active with the local Red Cross rolling bandages to support war efforts.  Blackouts and air raids rehearsals were common place during this time. The women had to wear bloomers for P.E. classes and trench coats were the standard piece of clothing for all students.

In 1944, Mary Peters Cunningham, daughter of Dr. Peters, was named the May Day Queen.  Community members came to campus for this event in the Sunken Garden where Washington Hall sits today. Students were allowed to ride in cars within a 10-mile radius until 6 p.m. Women were beginning to take business classes to prepare for defense jobs. Radford also merged with Virginia Tech as part of an initiative by Governor Colgate Darden. Student activism also grew as many saw this as an arranged marriage.

M'ledge MoffettDr. Charles Martin was appointed president in 1952, then the youngest college president in Virginia history. Under his tenure, 24 buildings were constructed. He was a lightening rod regarding Radford's strict rules but also a deeply compassionate man who assisted needy college students.  How many of you walked on the grass? Remember if you were caught walking on the grass, you had to go to the President's office and sign a statement that you had violated a Radford College regulation.  It was reported that this went into your permanent records.  Dr. Moffett, Dean of Women, did not hesitate to give dates the third degree and even patted down a few while putting several on the "off limits" list.  Dr. Moffett had to meet, interview and approve of my fiancé (Lloyd ) before we could marry one quarter before I graduated.

Dr. Jeremy Whitt served his second term as interim Radford president.

Elvis even rode the train through Radford in the spring of 1960 and caused much excitement for the student body. I was on that train returning to Radford from a weekend at home.Until the 1960s, students had to file yellow slips indicating if they were going on a date.  Students were required to wear dresses on campus, the dining hall and downtown.  Dr. Moffett retired after 49 years of asking students the famous Radford question, "Who Am I?"  Bonnie Hurlburt, who was a wonderful role-model assumed that position two years later. Elsie Claytor was the first African American female graduate and William Robertson who is with us today was the first African American male graduate.

The 1970s brought the first class of men who challenged the norm at every turn.  Coach Pat Barrett's women's basketball team traveled in a 1963 Chevy.

The early uniforms were recycled for Coach Janell Dobbins to start the varsity volleyball team.  Coach Dobbins is with us today too. In 1974, Phi  Sigma Kappa was founded as the first fraternity.   Streaking was big on campus and it caused quite a commotion. Dr. Donald N. Dedmon was named Radford's President in 1972. Under his tenure, the Radford Foundation was established which has provided millions of dollars in support.  He also was an advocate of the acclaimed "Writing Across the Curriculum" program establishing Radford as a national leader in this area.  Rules relaxed and trench coats were only needed on rainy days. Rick Gordon '73 was designated as the first male graduate. Radford's first radio station went live during this decade. In 1979, a colorful hot air balloon soared above campus to celebrate Radford's newly christened university status. Governor John Dalton, a Radford native, signed this paperwork for the official name change. His wife, two daughters in law and a grandson are all proud Radford alumni.

First males at RURowdy Red made his debut in 1981 as our mascot. Athletic Director Chuck Taylor brought Radford to Division One status and the Dedmon Center Roof was raised.  Great concerts were held and Dr. Ruth even offered advice at Preston Hall.  Dr. Jehan Sadat, Maya Angelou and Arthur Goldberg were visiting professors.  Evening in D.C. was a highlight on campus and ASP held its dime roll on Interstate 81. The Hideout changed ownership and opened as BTs in 1983. The Selu property was donated extending the Radford campus.

Radford University soccer star Dante Washington was selected for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team.  Phil Leftwich was the first RU baseball player selected for the Major League Draft. The College of Business and Economics received its prestigious AACSB accreditation.  The Arts Society was established to recruit and retain the best visual and performing arts students. Dr. Douglas Covington was named president and Radford launched its first capital campaign raising more than $26-million. He reintroduced the singing of the Alma Mater at commencement and other special occasions. He also was instrumental in facilitating the Patrick D. Cupp Memorial Stadium. In 1998, Cook Hall was opened in honor of Sallie Ann Cook McGlothlin '36 and her parents. Her son, Tom, and nephew, William H. Miller are representing her and her sister Myrtle '32 as memorial Centennial Ambassadors. In 1998, the men's basketball team played Duke in Radford's NCAA debut.

InaugurationWaldron Hall was dedicated in 2000 and Radford's health and human services programs continue to be recognized for their outstanding contributions. On September 11, 2001, the campus community rallied to provide support for our country.  Campus vigils were held with bagpiper and a healing drum circle. In 2005, Penelope Kyle was named Radford's sixth president.  She broke the glass ceiling ninety-five years after the Charter was signed.  Her inauguration boasted the return of Maya Angelou and Jehan Sedat at the Women's Leadership in a Global Society Symposium.  Under her tenure, Radford added its first doctoral program and funding was secured for several new buildings.  The Covington Center was opened and a grand campaign celebration was held at the Bonnie. Fireworks lit up the sky when it was announced that more than $40 million was raised during the Building a Legacy Campaign.  The Men's Rugby Club won two national championships. The men's tennis team boasted four Big South Championships.  Soccer, softball, and basketball competed in the NCAA Tournament in 2009.  Radford students traveled to Barrow, Alaska for scientific research while Arabic was added to the academic offerings. Radford also was recognized as one of the nation's Top Up and Coming Schools in U.S. News and World Report.

While our colors have changed from purple and gray to Tartan plaid to red and white and our name has undergone five changes, one thing has been consistent. We have always been Radford and our alumni are the fabric of society.  From Radford we went into the world well prepared to siege opportunities, deal with challenges, and contribute to this great country.

Whether you were part of our early classes or are a current student, embrace our history and traditions and help us put our mark on this amazing second century.

What a privilege and honor to represent the 65,000 plus alumni today at this history-making event, THE CHARTER DAY CELEBRATION OF RADFORD UNIVERSITY.


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