By Pamela Woody
On June 3, 2020, when I received an email from someone on campus who indicated that this was the week that the demolition for Anderson Hall was to occur, I had tears in my eyes. Anderson was my “home” for over 20 years, from 1993 when I began at the College to 2015 when I moved into the newly established Horace G. and Anne H. Fralin Center for Science and Health Professions. I can remember back to the day of my interview for a newly created position to assist the health program heads with the admission processes for all the health programs and advise the pre-health students.
Dr. J. Andrew Archer had created the job, and during the interview he indicated that he could maintain the health programs but he could not help them grow. His background was in math and they had just brought the health programs to be housed with science, engineering and math. Dr. Archer indicated that, in discussions with the program heads, the need for an advisor and someone to manage the student admission files was a high priority. Dr. Archer can be credited with creating a life-changing event for myself by hiring me to work in Anderson Hall in that capacity.
My first day on the job, I met Mary Perry and Julia Andrews, the two division secretaries for both horticulture, math and engineering and science and health. Mary was first a work-study student at the College and she remained in the same office as a work-study and then as division secretary until her retirement in 2012. Not many can say that they remained in the same office during their long work tenure.
There was a core group of about seven of us who worked in Anderson Hall and formed lifelong friendships. Lyn Hursey, one member of the group, worked in another building but would come to Anderson to collect the mail and take her break and visit with Mary and others in Anderson for 10 minutes at least one time a week. We would socially gather after work and developed lasting friendships. Patti Prevo was the chemistry lab manager and had been in the same position for the College, in Anderson Hall, for 30-plus years and was one of our group members. Mary and Patti would discuss the faculty from the past before some of us arrived in Anderson Hall. Often, we would learn so much from listening to Mary and Patti engage about the lives of faculty members and the students as well.
Dr. John Killian taught Anatomy and Physiology at the College and some students tried to avoid his classes. Anatomy and Physiology can be a difficult subject, and Dr. Killian’s test often involved short answers. Dr. Killian’s belief was that if a student knew enough and could write the answer, they should remember and retain the information. Often, nursing students would come into my office after being accepted into the nursing program and inform me that they were glad they had Dr. Killian for A&P. As the nursing instructors would lecture, Dr. Killian’s former students could recall the previously learned A&P information and relate that information to the nursing aspect that the nursing instructors were discussing. They could “connect the dots” to previous learning from A&P.
Dr. Donna Harpold, another science instructor, taught Microbiology and she would often come to my office and discuss the progress that the health students were making in her class. She was a passionate and smart instructor and so caring with her students. Dr. Harpold would sometimes share how her daughter, who became a professional dancer in California, was and which singer she was performing with at the moment. Dr. Harpold raised orchids and upon her death I bought two from the Virginia Western greenhouse in her memory. When one blooms regularly I think of Dr. Harpold and the knowledge that she shared with her students.
I think of the married professors, John Starnes who taught math in Anderson, and his wife, Patsy Starnes, who taught reading improvement courses inside of Anderson Hall. I think of Joel Pack, who taught math and would grow a beard beginning in September so he could play a Bible character in the Christmas pageant that First Baptist Church would hold each year. I think of the nursing students who would hear a nursing instructor, Sandy Myers, walking down the hallway and cringe. The students would often refer to Myers as the “drill sergeant” because of her fast-paced walk and the noise that her shoes would make in the hallways. Myers was also referred to as the “drill sergeant” because of the standards she expected nursing students in her clinical groups to uphold. Often, as in Dr. Killian’s class, the students grew to appreciate Myers and her standards after they finished their rotations. They discovered, after the fact, that they had learned so much with Myers and that she would set them on the way to success within the nursing programs because of the way that she conducted her clinical groups in the hospital.
I think of the Radiography program and Shirl Lamanca, who graduated from the Virginia Western Radiography program and returned to become program head and interim dean of the math, science and health divisions. So many of the faculty within Radiography over the years returned to be a part of the Radiography program in some faculty aspect.
I think of Virginia Garden, Ellen Holtman and Tom Olsen, who would teach Biology and their passion for their discipline and for teaching the students. I also think of the faithful math instructors, such as Sarah Martin, Ray Tucker and Jim Fightmaster, who is still teaching math in the new STEM Building, and the caring developmental math instructors who were often retired high school math teachers. In the Physics Department, I remember Don Benson having to have his morning coffee at a certain temperature and Barry Thomas who would visit the Division Office frequently and share stories of his family vacations out West.
I remember the day when the Division Dean, Ben Zirkle, who became the Division Dean after Dr. Archer became Vice President, called Julia and me into his office early one morning. He had this sad look on his face. Julia thought someone had passed away. He then reported that a bomb threat had been phoned in and Julia and I had to “man” the back door of Anderson and not allow any students into the building. Dutifully, we did as told but I grabbed my purse and backpack as I was working on my graduate degree and didn’t want to lose my textbook or paper that I was working on for class. Then outside we looked at one another, and said we need to move away from the building in case the threat was true. We had a wide girth from the back door. The students would just roll their eyes when we informed them that they were not allowed in the building. After this episode ended, of course Mary and Patti began stories of the bomb threats in the ’80s that would occur.
As I sat on the steps of Fishburn, watching the demolition of Anderson Hall, I remembered the barn swallows at the back of the building that would hunt for insects as students walked to class in the morning and how some on campus would want their nest removed.
Biology teacher Rich Crites would defend the birds and inform everyone who would listen how many insects the birds ate and how beneficial the birds were and how they were raising their young and the nest needed to remain until the young fled the nest. In the front of Anderson Hall, house finches would build nests above the lights on the front porch. Again, some would complain and about the “mess” the birds made at the front door. However, the finches typically remained and returned each year.
My office partner, Debra Tyree, and I would feed and keep a water source for the birds outside our office window. We began keeping a bird “watch list” and reached 22 different types of birds that we noted that visited the feeders outside of Anderson Hall and the chipmunks that would visit as well. We enjoyed watching the parent birds feed their young with the seed by placing the seed inside their beaks. We also remember the groundhogs out back and the other critters that caused a scare during the hantavirus outbreaks in the Midwest one year. However, I think the groundhog remained as a guest, perhaps unwanted guest, on the back of the building.
As I pondered the rich history of Anderson Hall, I remembered the celebrations held in the building with co-worker/friends. We had Christmas parties in labs. We had birthday celebrations in offices and baby showers in classrooms. We had a graduation party for a fellow staff member when she finished her graduate degree and a retirement party as well. I remember the beautiful angel and hand-made doily left on my desk by Julia and Pam Conner when I returned to work after the unexpected death of my brother and yellow day lily plant left in my office by Lee Hipp and Susan Barton, who ran the Community Arboretum.
I also began to think of the students who had class in Anderson Hall. I thought of the husband who worked while his wife finished her nursing program at the College, and how she then worked as he later finished in nursing as well. I think of Dr. John Boone, who completed the science program and then went further and became a doctor of osteopathic medicine. I think of the nursing students Stephanie and Joanna, who could always be found in the back left corner of the computer study room across from my last office — every day in between class and at the end of day, always studying in the nursing computer lab. Both graduated and became RNs and Joanna recently graduated from Liberty as a Family Nurse Practitioner.
I think of the nursing student Allison, who managed a divorce and co-raising three sons while at the College to become an RN and while in the program would share what a difference she was making in patients’ lives and how lucky she was to find her “calling” in life. However, I think too, of all the students who graduated and continued onward at another college or went to work upon graduation and are considered a success for the way they complete their jobs on a daily basis.
As I rise from the Fishburn steps and gaze as the building is coming down, I think of the wonderful friendships, amazing faculty and remarkable students whose feet have walked the hallways of Anderson and I think — well done, Anderson Hall, well done.
Woody is the program advisor for Dental Hygiene, Nursing, Radiography, Radiation Oncology, Practical Nursing, Phlebotomy, MLT and Physical Therapist Assistant in the Virginia Western Community College School of Health Professions.
Would you like to share your memories of Anderson Hall with the College community? Email Carole Tarrant at the Virginia Western Educational Foundation, firstname.lastname@example.org.